Your estate plan may include some key details about what will happen to your assets after you pass away. For instance, after probate, your assets will very likely be distributed to family, friends and loved ones by your designated executor. If you have children, then you’ve likely named a guardian for them. And, if you have special plans for your assets or want to support your family after you pass away, you may even have a trust in place.
For the most part, your estate plan likely focuses on what happens after you die. However, there is one thing you may still want to include: a power of attorney designation. If you don’t know what a power of attorney is and does, here’s what you should know.
The benefits of naming a power of attorney
In short. a power of attorney is a representative who is empowered to act on your behalf if you’re incapacitated following an accident or debilitating medical condition. You could, for example, suffer a traumatic head wound after a car accident, leaving you incapacitated. Then, the agent you’ve assigned as power of attorney will handle many of your personal matters if/until you recover the ability to advocate on behalf of your own interests.
There are a few primary responsibilities that a power of attorney may engage in, depending upon how you structure their authority. You can potentially even have more than one power of attorney. A general power of attorney can act on your behalf in a variety of ways.
Alternatively, you may specifically name a financial power of attorney who will handle things like your taxes, rent, utilities, loans, family business (if applicable) and debt. And/or, you may have a medical power of attorney who will decide whether you’ll undergo surgery, take medication or be subjected to medical treatment. Typically, people designate one person as a general power of attorney who handles both financial and medical responsibilities.
To answer your questions as to whether you need a power of attorney, you’ll want to seek legal guidance in order to consider your legal options in truly informed ways.