Financial Power of Attorney – Healthcare Power of Attorney

Who will make your medical decisions if you can’t?  Who will pay your bills and handle other financial matters for you if you are mentally incapacitated?

What instructions do you want to leave to these trusted helpers?

Your estate planning attorney should help you answer these questions and draft Powers of Attorney that contain your personal instructions.  If you don’t have these documents in place and you become mentally incapacitated, your family will be forced to go to Guardianship Court so that someone has legal authority to make your medical decisions and financial decisions.

Guardianship Court is a time-consuming, expensive and unpleasant experience for most families.  It typically takes about 8 weeks to have a jury trial to determine if you are incapacitated.  Then a Guardian is appointed by the court.  The Guardian will be required to pay for a surety bond.  The fee for the surety bond is based on the size of your estate and can be several thousand dollars per year.  After that, annual reports must be filed with the Guardianship Court and court approval may be required for actions your family wants to take on your behalf.  All of this can be avoided with proper planning.

One way to avoid Guardianship Court is with a Power of Attorney for Financial Matters and a Healthcare Power of Attorney.  Sadly, many times these are just boilerplate documents that may not reflect your wishes.  You deserve to have your Power of Attorney instructions reflect your wishes.

An even better way to avoid Guardianship Court is to establish a revocable living trust to own your assets.  You can leave detailed financial instructions and instructions for your personal care for your Successor Trustee named in your trust.  Then if you become incapacitated, your Successor Trustee can simply follow your instructions and he or she will not be required to go to Guardianship Court.

Even if a court appoints a Guardian for you, the Guardian does not control assets that you have titled in your trust name.  That is why it is important to fully fund your revocable living trust.  My office assists clients with fully funding their living trusts.