Whether you are just starting the estate planning process or have a plan in place but your circumstances have changed, it can feel like an overwhelming task to protect yourself in the event you become disabled or incapacitated in some way. As you cannot predict the future in order to know exactly what your estate plan should include, there are certain legal documents that Ohio residents should consider preparing to cover certain contingencies. A durable power of attorney is one of them.
This week's column will address the purpose of a durable power of attorney and give a brief overview of the different types available. Many people benefit from having this important legal document included in their estate plans.
Why have a durable power of attorney?
If today, tomorrow or anytime in the future something happened to you that left you unable to care for yourself, manage your assets or make important decisions, who would do those things for you? A durable power of attorney is a legal document in which you name someone to act as your agent. This person will be your voice and will be responsible for making sure your wants and wishes are known and honored.
What types of power of attorney are available?
There are two different types of power of attorney: health care and financial. With a health care power of attorney, not only will you name an agent, but also you have the ability to include a medical directive, which gives detailed instructions about what care you do and do not want to receive.
The individual you name as your agent in a financial power of attorney will be in charge of handling your assets and managing your money. You give permission for this person to:
- Handle bill payments
- Pay your taxes
- Sell your assets if necessary
- Manage your real estate
- Gain access to all of your financial accounts
Your health care agent and financial agent can be the same person, but it is possible to assign different people to each role.
The biggest benefit to having a durable power of attorney prepared and ready for use is that it can make things easier on your loved ones. It will allow them to handle your affairs without having to go to court to seek a guardianship.
Another benefit is that there are limitations to your agent's power. You can set certain ground rules, and the state also has guidelines in place for this. This may ensure that your agent is acting in your best interests.
Want to know more?
There is a lot to know about a durable power of attorney, and you may have many questions. If you want to know more, an experienced estate planning attorney will be able to answer any questions you have.
At the end of the day, having all your legal bases covered can grant piece of mind for yourself and your loved ones. Having a durable power of attorney in place is one of many things you can do to ensure the protection of your rights and interests.