When most people think of estate planning, they think of documents like wills and trusts that specify where their assets should go and to whom their possessions should be given when they pass away. Estate planning, however, also needs to account for the risk of mental or physical incapacity — the loss of the ability to make decisions and/or to communicate decisions.At The Dennison Law Firm, P.C., we strongly recommend that your estate plan include designated powers of attorney — trusted individuals who can make financial and health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so. Here are the descriptions in greater detail:Durable Power of Attorney: Someone appointed by you as your durable power of attorney is responsible for tending to your financial matters and making financial decisions for you in the event of mental or physical incapacity. In this context, “durable” means that the power of attorney designation remains valid and in effect after a person becomes incapacitated. Naming a durable power of attorney now can prevent the need for loved ones to go to court to have a conservator appointed if you become mentally incapacitated.Health Care Power of Attorney: A person may become mentally or physically incapacitated for any number of reasons and may not be able to make or to communicate decisions about his or her own preferred health care and/or end-of-life medical decisions. Physicians are typically compelled to keep the patient alive as long as possible, even if that includes the use of invasive and expensive life-support systems which the person may not desire or want. In the absence of other guidance, however, it is what health care providers must do.
This problem can largely be prevented by designating someone to make those decisions on your behalf in the event of incapacity. You can make your health care wishes or preferences known to your designated agent, either verbally or in writing.
Durable and health care powers of attorney can also be used for the sake of convenience in cases where no physical or mental incapacity has occurred. For instance, a husband acting as durable power of attorney for his wife could sign a legal document on her behalf if she happened to be out of the state or country when the signature was needed.
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With an office in Greenville, The Dennison Law Firm, P.C. serves clients throughout the Upstate of South Carolina. To take a consultation with our firm, call us at 864-214-2463, or send us an email.