Estate planning may start with a simple will, but it doesn’t end there — not when it’s designed to be effective.
Some of the most powerful legal tools you have at your disposal are powers of attorney (POAs). Here are the basics you should know about how they figure into your estate plans.
Health care proxies
These are often referred to as “medical powers of attorney” in other states. They essentially allow you to appoint someone you trust (and who knows you well) to step in and make medical decisions on your behalf.
While a living will is often used to clarify people’s wishes when they can’t speak for themselves, the reality is that a living will is a static document that can’t always speak to a fluid situation. You can give your health care proxy the power to respond to immediate questions that may never have been anticipated in your living will.
Durable powers of attorney
Also called “statutory” powers of attorney or “attorneys-in-fact,” these allow you to appoint someone to handle your financial and personal affairs if you’re incapacitated.
They can be broad (which means your POA can handle pretty much any transaction for you) or limited (if, for example, you only want your POA to manage your real estate).
Estate planning, when it’s done well, looks ahead to all the possibilities in your future. You may have periods of time in your life — even if just close to the time of your death — when you’re unable to speak for yourself. It’s wise to have documents in place that give those you trust the most the right to speak on your behalf.