A power of attorney is a vital part of any estate plan. The power of attorney—or POA as it’s often called—is a legal document that gives a selected individual the authority to act for another individual in legal or financial situations. While it can be uncomfortable to think about what would happen if you became incapacitated and were unable to make your own decisions, it is very important that you do so. Here are 5 reasons why:
1. Your Next of Kin is Powerless without a Power of Attorney
It is a common misconception that your next of kin can handle your affairs and make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. However, this is only true if a POA is in place. Without a POA, your next of kin will remain powerless.
2. Your Wishes May Not Be Known
If you were to become incapacitated, a medical power of attorney would allow someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf. Additionally, you could outline your healthcare wants and wishes, so your agent is better equipped to make decisions in alignment with what you would want. For example, do you want to be placed on a ventilator or feeding tube. Do you want to be kept alive at all costs?
3. Your Finances Could Fall to the Wayside
Unfortunately—incapacitated or not—your bills still need to get paid. A financial POA would ensure that whomever you designate as your agent would be able to act on your behalf in financial matters: paying your bills, and managing your bank accounts as needed in order to keep your finances in order.
4. Your Family May Have to Apply for Guardianship of Your Children
Without a proper POA in place, your family (yes, even your spouse) may have to apply for guardianship with the courts in order to make decisions about your children on your behalf. This process can be costly, and could take several months to complete. However, time is often of the essence in situations where a parent becomes incapacitated. You can avoid a problematic situation by having the proper estate planning documents in place.
5. You Could Be Denied Medicaid
If you are being sent to a nursing home in need of long-term care, it is imperative that you qualify for Medicaid to help pay for care. On average, nursing home care in Missouri costs over $5,000 per month. If you are incapacitated and unable to make medical decisions for yourself—and have not already applied and been accepted to receive Medicaid—it is vital that you have a POA in place so that a loved one can apply for Medicaid for you. The Medicaid application requires large amounts of documentation and records. A POA will grant a trusted individual with the permission they need to access these documents and records. If no one is able to access these important documents and records, your Medicaid application may be denied, and your life savings will be at risk.
If you were to become incapacitated, life around you would continue to go on. Bills would need to be paid and decisions would need to be made. Having a POA in place will give you peace of mind knowing that your estate will be protected, and that your wishes will be granted. If you have questions about drafting a power of attorney, we urge you to contact our office to help with your estate planning needs.
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