Saturday, June 27, 2015

Powers of Attorney and Health Care Proxies

As I stated yesterday, me and my fellow Boomers, are, of course, in the last scene of all, in second childhood and we need to plan for the end when we are sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything. One way to do this is to have an estate plan. Yesterday I talked about Wills today I want to talk about  Powers of Attorney and Health Care Proxies

People should also work with a lawyer to execute a durable power of attorney and when they create a Health Care Proxy

The Power of Attorney document authorizes a named individual (the agent) to act on behalf of a person (the principal) if the principal becomes incapacitated. It applies only while the principal is alive. At death, the powers pass to the executor of the estate.

A key decision is whether to grant the power of attorney to a relative or to a professional such as an attorney. If an older person does not trust family members with this responsibility or is concerned that a family conflict may erupt over the chosen family member, appointing an independent professional may be the best alternative. Second marriages and mixed families raise the potential for problems in these areas.

Unfortunately, many cases of elder abuse and even stealing do involve family members, so it is worth being cautious in granting this power.

The other important document is the health care proxy. Also called a health care power of attorney, this may be a standard state-issued form that spells out the person’s wishes for care at the end of life.

The wishes may cover the extent to which the person wants use of extraordinary measures that prolong life and whether to allow organ donation. It may name specific medical procedures to use or not use when the person is terminally ill and unable to make decisions.

Typically, the health care proxy form appoints a health care agent and an alternate health care agent to carry out the person’s wishes. Often these appointees are the spouse, who is typically named the agent, and an adult child, typically named the alternate.

Retirees should know that having a health care proxy in place is extremely important. It can relieve a family from a terrible decision-making burden at a time of extreme stress.

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