POAs and Incapacity Planning

Studies by the National Safety Council show that one in four people will be disabled before the age of 65 for at least a year, and nearly one out of every two people over 65 will have some form of disability.  Though no one likes to think about falling ill, these numbers show that it is important that one be prepared for such an event.

Having a Durable Health Care Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you to choose an agent to make decisions for you in the case that you cannot do so for yourself.  You can choose anyone you would like to serve as an agent as long as they are 18 years or older and competent. It is very important to choose someone you trust. Your agent will follow the instructions you have laid out in your Durable Care Power of Attorney. You can use the document to lay out your wishes concerning life-support measures and long-term care.  If  unsure, your agent will make a decision based on what they think is best for you.

Unfortunately we have seen several instances where people do not have a Durable Power of Attorney in place and they become mentally incompetent. Many times people think that a Living Will is enough however, many doctors refuse to recognize it.  In this case your loved ones will have to go through a “Living Probate” process.  This means that for someone to gain control of your healthcare decisions, they must file court papers to have you declared legally incompetent.  Anyone with an interest in the proceedings will be notified as well as the local newspaper & courthouse.   Don’t wait until it’s too late!!  Because laws vary from state to state it is important that you talk with an attorney who is familiar with these laws.