Living Will When Should I Create a Medical Power of Attorney?

  1. As you get older, it becomes more important to understand the need for a medical power of attorney, which will help you empower others to make important medical decisions for you when you're unable to do so yourself. It is important to understand why a medical power of attorney is necessary and who is best equipped to help you creating one that will reflect your wishes.

    When is the Best Time to Plan Power of Attorney Documents?


    If you plan to meet with an estate planning professional or attorney, you can handle all the powers of attorney documents at the same time. You can obtain both a medical power of attorney (for medical decisions) and a general power of attorney (for financial decisions) in the event you become incapacitated so you can ensure that you have an appropriate, authorized legal representative to manage your affairs during this time, even for a long-term disability. Your representative will be able to manage your bank account, stocks and securities, process checks or payments and also make payments on your behalf.

    With regard to long term medical disability, a court may appoint a "conservator" to handle medical decisions if you have not chosen a representative in a medical power of attorney. You should be aware that a court might appoint a private professional as your conservator who may charge hourly fees that would be paid out of the assets of your estate. In other instances, a court might choose a relative that, from your years of personal experience with this person, might not be the most unbiased and trustworthy amongst your blood relations. Leaving a court to choose who will make the most important decisions can frequently lead to the appointment of someone who would not have been your first choice. As you can see, planning in advance of your elder years is crucial to the proper management of your estate.

    Estate Planning: Online or In Person?


    While many people seek to obtain help and information online, important matters such as estate planning might be best accomplished with the assistance of an estate planning professional who is familiar with current laws and can ask questions about your specific situation. An attorney can draft an estate plan that is specifically tailored for you and advise you on the options you may have with regard to important estate issues. For the most part, online estate planning is best used when you have a simple estate or feel strongly about not wanting to use an estate planning professional.

    If you do not wish to utilize an attorney to draft an estate plan, you can almost always obtain free medical power of attorney forms, which have already been reviewed for legality in your state, from your local hospital. All you need to do is ask. Hospitals offer these forms because it can save them a great deal of difficulty if people obtain these authorizations when they are healthy and competent. By giving you the forms in advance, it becomes unnecessary to have one of their administrators guide family members through the process of petitioning a court for the appointment of a guardian or conservator, and dealing with the associated delays. Once an elderly patient is admitted to the hospital, it is often too late to avoid the complications that arise as a result of having nobody appointed to make medical decisions.

    What is a Durable Power of Attorney?


    It is important to note that a power of attorney issued for the purpose of managing your assets in the event of disability is frequently created as unlimited in duration. It is also commonly referred to as a "durable" power of attorney. Many financial institutions are reluctant to accept or rely upon powers of attorney which expire after a specific date and some will refuse to accept them. If you are interested in limiting the duration of a power of attorney which takes effect in the event of disability, it makes sense to check with an attorney in your state to see what effect such a limit may have. In addition, you may wish to limit any power of attorney of this type, so that it expressly recognizes your right to participate in medical and financial decisions to the extent that you are able.

    Living Will and Power of Attorney Forms


    In addition to being able to get Power of Attorney forms from your local hospital, you can also obtain these forms online. It is certainly better to have an executed living will and medical power of attorney than to have none. While you can get these documents for free or at a modest cost, it is not a substitute for prudent estate planning with an experienced estate planning attorney.

    Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler
    Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of TheLaw.com, A. Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at Zedge.net and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.

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