Estate Planning Blog Articles

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Estate Planning for Millennials and Gen Zers

Estate planning is increasingly on the mind of younger adults, far from the stereotype of being only of interest to older, affluent couples nearing retirement or dealing with health concerns. These younger generations have unique attributes, including pragmatic financial views and humanitarian concerns, according to a recent article, “Six Estate Planning Tips for Younger Generations,” from Kiplinger. Here are tips to make this process easier for any generation.

Start with a basic will, which guides how assets and possessions are distributed after one’s passing. Prepared by an experienced estate planning attorney, the will should minimize potential disputes, include a clear delineation of assets and beneficiaries and name an executor to manage the estate and guardianship for any surviving dependents.

Appoint a power of attorney and draft medical directives. Power of Attorney and Medical Directives are basic documents that state your preferences during incapacity. A POA grants a named individual the legal authority to act on your behalf for legal and financial matters, if you cannot do so. Medical directives establish your wishes regarding medical treatment and end-of-life care. While taking care of these matters, you may also want to consider becoming an organ donor.

Determine who you want to be your children’s guardian. Naming a guardian of your minor children isn’t pleasant. However, it ensures that you and your partner make this decision, not the court.

Consider a living trust. Living trusts offer a strategic means of managing assets and helping to ensure that your surviving loved ones maintain control of your assets after you have passed. The trust, established with the help of an estate planning attorney, grants ownership of certain assets or properties into the trust, which becomes their owner. A trustee is named to manage and distribute these assets in accordance with your wishes. In some instances, it makes sense to hire a professional trustee, especially if the trust will need to be managed for decades.

By taking assets out of your estate and placing them into a trust, these assets won’t go through the probate process. Probate involves your executor filing your will with a court after you die. The court reviews the will to validate it and grants the named executor the power to execute your final instructions. Probate can be lengthy, expensive and emotionally charged for the family. Your will is entered into the public record, so anyone who wants to can see your will and know your final wishes.

Don’t forget your digital assets. Younger generations are more aware of the value and footprint of their digital assets. They often name a specific digital executor in their estate plans to ensure that their many accounts and digital assets are managed after their passing.

Seek professional advice and update documents. Despite a plethora of online sites and apps, estate planning documents require the skillful handling of an experienced estate planning attorney. Estate laws are state-specific, so wills and trust documents must be created with local laws in mind. Your estate plan documents, from wills to insurance policies, should be reviewed every three to five years. Every time there’s a significant change in your life, like getting married, buying a home, having a child, or getting divorced, this should also be done.

Reference: Kiplinger (Dec. 3, 2023) “Six Estate Planning Tips for Younger Generations

Estate Planning for Elderly Parents

Estate planning is a crucial process for everyone. However, it becomes particularly imperative for our elderly parents. As they advance in age, creating a complete estate plan ensures that their wishes are honored, and their affairs are in order for the inevitable. This guide will walk you through the essential steps and documents involved in estate planning for aging parents, helping you to make financial and medical decisions that are aligned with their desires.

Understanding the Importance of an Estate Plan for Your Elderly Parent

Estate planning is not merely about distributing assets. It’s a comprehensive approach to managing an elderly parent’s financial affairs and medical decisions and ensuring that their long-term care needs are met. It’s about ensuring that your parents’ hard-earned assets are passed on to their beneficiaries with as little complication as possible.

The Role of a Will in Your Parent’s Estate Plan

A will is the cornerstone of any estate plan. It dictates how your parent’s assets will be distributed. However, a will cannot help avoid probate, which is a lengthy and public legal process. A will is a “probate” legal instrument. Only assets subject to probate are subject to the terms of a will. Nevertheless, it’s essential to ensure that your parents have a will in place and that it’s updated to reflect their current wishes.

Trusts: A Planning Tool for Financial and Medical Decisions

Trusts can be a versatile component of an estate plan, offering more control over assets than a will. A revocable trust, for example, can be altered as your parents’ wishes or circumstances change. In contrast, an irrevocable trust can provide benefits, such as estate tax reductions and protection from creditors.

The Power of Attorney: A Must-Have in Your Parents’ Estate

A durable power of attorney allows your parents to appoint someone to make financial or medical decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated. This document is crucial for ensuring that their affairs can be managed without court intervention.

Medical Directives and the Patient Advocate Role

Medical directives, including a living will and medical power of attorney, allow your parents to make end-of-life care decisions in advance. They appoint a patient advocate when estate planning ensures that these wishes are respected.

Long-Term Care Planning: Preparing for Future Needs

Long-term care planning is an often-overlooked aspect of estate planning. It involves preparing for potential nursing or in-home care, which can be financially devastating without proper planning.

The Importance of Discussing Estate Planning Goals with Your Parents

Open conversations about estate planning can help align your parents’ goals with the actual planning. It’s a step towards ensuring that their wishes are clearly understood and followed.

Choosing the Right Estate Planning Attorney

Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney is vital. They can provide guidance tailored to your parents’ unique situation and help navigate the complexities of estate law.

When to Begin Estate Planning for Elderly Parents

The best time to begin estate planning is now. Procrastination can lead to unnecessary complications and stress in an already difficult time.

Estate Planning Documents: What Your Parents Will Need

A comprehensive estate plan includes several key documents: a will, trust, power of attorney, medical directives and more. Ensuring that these documents are in place and up to date is crucial.

Estate Planning for Aging Parents: A Summary

  • Create a comprehensive estate plan to manage financial and medical decisions.
  • Draft a will to outline asset distribution and avoid probate.
  • Consider trusts for greater control and potential tax benefits.
  • Establish power of attorney to handle affairs in the event of incapacity.
  • Implement medical directives to ensure that end-of-life wishes are met.
  • Plan for long-term care to protect against future financial burdens.
  • Discuss estate planning goals openly with your parents.
  • Seek an experienced estate planning attorney for personalized advice.
  • Start estate planning early to avoid complications later.
  • Keep all important documents in one place for easy access, when needed.

Schedule a consultation today for more information about the estate planning process or to get started.

Essential Estate Planning Considerations for Minor Children

Estate Planning for Minor Children

It is paramount for parents to have an estate plan that not only takes care of their personal and financial matters but also addresses the well-being of their minor child or children. Delving into estate planning considerations can be overwhelming, especially when young children are involved. This guide will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of estate planning for minors.

Estate Planning: Why Is It Essential for Parents with Young Children?

Estate planning for parents with young children involves setting up mechanisms to ensure that, in the event both parents pass away, their children will be cared for in the desired manner. Many parents overlook this critical aspect. However,ensuring their children have the protection and support they need is vital.

What Is a Trust and Why Is it Important for Minor Children?

A trust is a legal entity that holds and manages assets for the benefit of certain persons or entities, typically the minor child or children. A trust may be established to ensure that your child receives the inheritance at an appropriate age. The trustee is also responsible for managing the trust assets for the child’s benefit until they reach the age of majority.

Appointing a Guardian: Who Will Care for Your Children in the Event Both Parents Die?

Choosing a guardian for your child is one of the most critical decisions in an estate plan. The guardian is entrusted with raising your child if both parents die or become incapacitated. Young parents, especially, need to decide who they would trust to raise their children if both parents are not around. Appointing someone you trust and discussing your wishes with them beforehand is essential.

Power of Attorney: Who Makes Decisions on Your Behalf?

A power of attorney is a legal document that allows a person to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated. There are different types of power of attorney, such as financial power and medical power. The former deals with financial matters, while the latter allows someone to make medical decisions for you.

Special Needs Planning: What If One of Your Children has Special Needs?

If you have a child with special needs, specific considerations should be included in the estate plan. A special needs trust is a tool parents can use to ensure that the inheritance does not disqualify the child from receiving essential government benefits. Estate planning for special needs children requires meticulous attention to detail to safeguard their interests.

Life Insurance: Ensuring Financial Security for Your Children

Life insurance plays a crucial role in estate planning for parents with minor children. In the unfortunate event that one or both parents pass away, the life insurance proceeds can provide financial stability for the children. This ensures that they have the means for education, healthcare and other essential needs.

The Last Will and Testament: A Fundamental Estate Planning Document

A last will and testament primarily directs how your personal property should be distributed after your death. Parents need to stipulate their desires, especially regarding their children’s inheritance.

Beneficiary Designations: Make Sure That Assets Go Where You Want

Ensuring the correct beneficiary designation on assets, like retirement accounts, is vital when drafting an estate plan. Incorrect or outdated designations can result in unintended consequences, potentially sidelining the intended benefits for your minor children.

Trusts for Children from Previous Relationships

For parents with children from previous relationships, establishing a trust can ensure that all children, irrespective of their biological ties, are treated equitably. This ensures that the inheritance and trust assets are distributed according to the parent’s wishes.

In Conclusion: Key Takeaways

  • Establishing an estate plan is vital for parents with minor children.
  • Setting up a trust can protect a child’s inheritance until they reach a suitable age.
  • Appointing a trusted guardian ensures that your children are in safe hands should anything happen to both parents.
  • Power of attorney is essential for someone to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
  • Parents with special needs children should consider setting up a special needs trust.
  • Life insurance is crucial for the financial security of your children.
  • Always ensure that beneficiary designations are updated and correct.
  • Trusts can be especially useful for parents with children from previous relationships.

To ensure that your estate plan aligns with your desires and the well-being of your minor child or children, consider consulting an estate planning attorney or law firm. They can guide you through the intricate details and help you make the best choices for your family’s future.

What Is Elder Law?

The U.S. population is aging, and baby boomers, the largest generation in history, have entered retirement age in recent years. Yahoo Finance’s recent article, “Elder Law Is More Important Than Ever. Why? Baby Boomers,” says that medical care has extended life and physical ability and grown more sophisticated.

“Questions surrounding mental competence, duration of care, and nature of treatments have become increasingly difficult to answer. The result has been a medical system that often implicates legal questions of individual autonomy, with some of the highest stakes that the courts recognize,” the article explains.

Estate Planning. Trusts and estates is the area of the law that governs how to manage your assets after death. You create trusts to hold, oversee and distribute assets according to your instructions. While they can be created when you’re alive, most establish trusts for handling their property after they’ve passed away.

Disability and Conservatorship. As you get older, your body or mind may fail. This is known as incapacitation. It is generally defined legally as when someone is either physically unable to express their wishes (such as being unconscious) or mentally unable to understand the nature and quality of their actions. If this occurs, you need someone to assist with activities of daily living. Declaring an individual mentally unfit or incapacitated is a complicated legal and medical issue.

Power of Attorney. Most seniors use power of attorney to plan for two main situations: (i) a medical power of attorney for family members to assume your care in the event you’re physically incapacitated for some reason, and (ii) a general power of attorney allows you plan for someone to manage your affairs, if you’re judged mentally incapacitated.

Medicare. Every American over 65 will most likely deal with Medicare, which provides no-cost or low-cost healthcare for those 65+. Almost all seniors enroll to receive at least some medical benefits under this program. Health care becomes an increasingly important part of your financial and personal life as you age. It’s important for the elderly to know their rights and responsibilities regarding healthcare.

Social Security. This is the retirement benefits program to help ensure that U.S. seniors have money on which to live. For senior citizens, understanding how these programs work is often essential. This is particularly true given the increased footprint that medical care plays in the lives of senior citizens and the complexities brought on by increasingly mobile seniors.

Reference: Yahoo Finance (Sep. 13, 2023) “Elder Law Is More Important Than Ever. Why? Baby Boomers”

Have Estate Plan Checkup before Heading to Warmer Winter

“Snowbirds” spend their winters somewhere warm, which usually means they own assets in more than one state. For them, special attention is needed to certain decisions in their estate planning documents, including Wills, Trusts, Power of Attorney, and Advanced Medical Directives, according to a recent article from Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press, “Headed South for the winter? Your estate plan may need some attention.”

If you live in multiple states at different times of the year or own assets like real estate in more than one state, your estate planning documents and overall estate planning strategy need to take this into account. Many people aren’t aware of the need for planning to avoid having their estate go through probate in every state where they own property.

Even if you don’t mind the idea of your estate being administered through probate, a formal court-controlled process, you probably don’t want your loved ones to go through this process in multiple states, which takes time and can be costly.

Another issue for Snowbirds concerns the Power of Attorney documents. Which state these are prepared in and which state’s laws govern the use of these POA documents is more complex than most people expect. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, so having this discussion with your estate planning attorney before you travel for the season is critical. Don’t assume you have it all set up and can efficiently deal with it once you arrive at your winter home. The law is a little more complicated than that.

Any time you leave your home state for an extended period, you should bring copies of important legal documents. For most people, this includes your Financial Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, Last Will and Testament, Living Trust, or any other Trusts you may have, Living Will, and a Physician’s Orders for Scope of Treatment Form. This last document is known by different names in different jurisdictions, which is another reason to review these documents with your estate planning attorney.

Will copies of these documents be accepted? This is another question to ask your estate planning attorney. In some cases, a copy will be sufficient for any purpose, while in others, the originals will be needed, regardless of how far away you are from them.

Estate planning documents should be in a safe and secure location, like a fireproof safe or your estate planning attorney’s office. If you are traveling, a set of copies should always travel with you.

Before you head to the airport or pack up for your winter sojourn, call your estate planning attorney to be sure your estate planning documents are all in order. Hopefully, you won’t need any of them, but if you do, you’ll be glad to be prepared.

Reference: Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press (Sep. 13, 2023) “Headed South for the winter? Your estate plan may need some attention”

Now Is the Time for Estate Planning

Individuals in their twenties are usually focused on their careers, acquiring assets and enjoying life—death is one of the last things on their minds, according to a recent article from The National Law Review, “Don’t Wait until Time Is Up.” However, unexpected things happen, even to healthy young people.

Estate planning documents, including Power of Attorney, Healthcare Proxy and Living Will, should be prepared because they go into effect as soon as they are executed, allowing others to carry out legal, financial and health wishes in case of incapacity.

Thirty-somethings may have reached various milestones, such as marriage, having children, owning property, starting a business, or working in the family business. This is also a time when life-changing events occur, such as divorce, death in the family, inheritance, moving to another state and more. Estate planning documents should be in place now, including a will and ancillary documents. This may also be the time to establish trusts to accomplish estate planning goals.

If you are getting married, already married, divorced, or remarried, it’s time to call your estate planning attorney. Estate planning is often negotiated as part of prenuptial, postnuptial and separation agreements. Upon getting married or remarried, your estate plan must be updated to include your new spouse and/or remove your ex-spouse. A new spouse may have elective rights to a portion of their spouse’s estate if they remain married at death and the deceased spouse has failed to provide for their surviving spouse.

One of the most important provisions of a will is the designation of a guardian of minor children. The guardian will take legal custody and responsibility for minor children if both natural parents die while the child is under legal age. Any new parent must execute a will or update their will to designate a guardian. Within the will, you may also request guidelines for guardians to file while raising minor children. The court must find and appoint a guardian if there is no will or the will does not designate a guardian.

If you die without a will, the state laws of intestacy control, which means your spouse and nearest heirs will inherit your estate. If this is not your intention and you want to leave assets to friends, charities, or other relatives, then you need a will.

An estate plan is also needed to streamline the probate and administrative process of the estate. An estate plan can be designed to effectively minimize the expense, delay, and loss of privacy of the probate process. This is typically done by establishing a Living Revocable Trust in addition to the will. The trust can be funded during your lifetime and controlled by you before death. Assets don’t pass through the will, avoiding the need for probate.

One of the first steps of probate is filing the will with the appropriate court when the will becomes part of the public record, and anyone can access it. Probate varies from state to state, and courts experiencing back-ups can delay admitting the will and appointing an executor to manage and distribute the assets. This process can take up to a year in some New York Surrogate courts.

Having an estate plan in place and updating it regularly can help protect assets and beneficiaries. If you haven’t already implemented it, now is the best time to begin.

Reference: The National Law Review (Sep. 12, 2023) “Don’t Wait until Time Is Up”

Three More Reasons to Have an Estate Plan

Even after COVID, most Americans still don’t have an estate plan. A 2023 survey reported in Kiplinger’s recent article, “Three Overlooked Benefits of Estate Planning,” found that 75% of respondents didn’t have an estate plan. Worse, 72% of all respondents over age 75 didn’t have an estate plan.

It’s an easy task to postpone. No one likes to think about death, their own or their spouse’s. However, not having an estate plan condemns your loved ones to deal with an expensive, time-consuming, stressful mess that can be easily avoided.

Estate planning involves the creation and execution of the documents needed to address healthcare, financial, and legal affairs in case of incapacity or death. This is done with a series of documents created by an estate planning attorney. The names of the documents vary by state, but their function is roughly the same:

  • Guardianship—if there are minor children, the will names who will receive custody of your children if you and your spouse both die.
  • Will—A legal document used to express your wishes to distribute your property, name a guardian and an executor.
  • Trust—A fiduciary agreement used to shield your estate from probate and allow further customization of your estate plan.
  • Durable Power of Attorney—A legal document naming a spouse, partner, or other third party to manage finances if you can’t manage your own decisions.
  • Advanced Care Directive—A document outlining the medical care you want or don’t want if you can’t make or communicate these decisions on your own.
  • Medical Power of Attorney—A document naming a third party to make medical decisions if you are incapacitated.
  • HIPAA Authorization—A document giving another person the right to view medical and insurance records and communicate with healthcare providers.

Why should you go through the trouble of having all these documents created? If focusing on the benefits of having an estate plan is the motivation you need to get going, here are several good reasons to have an estate plan.

Securing management of health care and finances if you’re incapacitated. No one likes to think they’ll ever be too sick to care for themselves or make their own decisions. However, this happens routinely to older Americans. Diseases like Alzheimer’s and other illnesses strike older adults with increasing frequency as they age. If you have an estate plan in place, family members can step in to take care of you if necessary. They’ll be able to pay bills to keep your household running smoothly, speak with your doctors and avoid going to court to obtain guardianship or conservatorship.

Fulfilling your wishes. Lacking a will, the laws of your state will determine how your property is distributed, with most states following a next-of-kin lineage. If you want your spouse to inherit everything and the state law divides your estate so 50% goes to a spouse and 50% is divided among the children, the state law will rule.

Another set of problems comes from outdated wills. If you named someone to be your executor thirty years ago and haven’t updated your will, they may no longer be in your life, or you may not want them administering your estate. Another problem is that if you’ve divorced a spouse and never updated your will, life insurance policies, or retirement accounts, your next call should be to your estate planning attorney and insurance agent.

Avoiding probate. Probate is a process where your will is filed with the court, reviewed by a judge,and approved—or not—to be administered. Depending on the jurisdiction, all documents, including your will, are available to anyone by searching the public records. An estate planning attorney can help you decide what assets you are willing to have to go through probate and what might be removed from your estate using trusts. Trusts provide more control over asset distribution and, depending upon the trust used, can provide protection from creditors and nuisance lawsuits. Trusts are also used in tax planning, which should go hand-in-hand with estate planning.

Estate plans have many benefits. Consider having an estate plan as part of your legacy to protect yourself during your lifetime and help your family.

Reference: Kiplinger (September 6, 2023) “Three Overlooked Benefits of Estate Planning”

Make Power of Attorney Part of Your Estate Plan

At some point, it becomes necessary for aging people to hand over control of their finances. One aspect of estate planning is naming an agent or fiduciary who can take control of finances if you become incapacitated or experience significant cognitive decline, explains the article “Don’t Forget to Build This Into Your Retirement and Estate Plans” from yahoo! finance.

A financial agent makes financial decisions with you or on your behalf. The exact nature depends upon your preference. However, most agents act as co-signatories or solely control your financial accounts. A co-signatory means you and the agent must jointly authorize a financial transaction. In contrast, a sole controller means only the agent can authorize financial transactions to and from your accounts.

This is a type of Power of Attorney in which you authorize another person to act on your behalf in a legal capacity. The purpose is to protect your finances against cognitive decline often accompanying aging. When it’s unnoticed, the individual can continue making financial decisions, and they may not always be correct. Cognitive decline is why seniors are so vulnerable to financial exploitation and fraud.

A study from the University of Southern California found that cognitive decline significantly reduces wealth among households whose financial decision-makers experience these declines.

Putting a Power of Attorney in place before it is needed can prevent many issues. Children or another trusted family member are usually selected to serve as agents. The issue of timing is another concern—the agent should be appointed before irreversible mistakes are made. If control of finances is handed over too early, the elderly parent can be forced to live as a competent adult who needs permission to make routine decisions.  However, waiting too long exposes them to financial mistakes.

How should you manage the timing? First, have regular medical checkups with a doctor who can track your mental status over time. Select your agent before issues begin as part of your estate planning. Consider a Springing Power of Attorney, allowing your agent to take charge if a doctor or court declares you unfit. Medical incompetence is a high bar, and financial mistakes can be made long before you meet a doctor’s standard for incapacity.

Another option is speaking with your agent regularly. Ask for their advice and follow it. If you trust them, you can have your estate planning attorney prepare a Power of Attorney form to suit your individual needs. Do you want your agent to manage every aspect of your financial life or focus on day-to-day bill paying? Does your situation require one person to pay bills and another to manage investments?

Cognitive decline impacts many older adults and can expose them to serious financial risk. You can protect yourself from this risk by appointing a trusted agent in a timely manner to manage your legal and financial lives.

Reference: yahoo! finance (July 28, 2023) “Don’t Forget to Build This Into Your Retirement and Estate Plans”

Planning for Aging without Family Caregivers

As they age, many people have diminished capacity and cannot care for themselves. They may no longer be able to walk or drive easily and can experience difficulty with basic activities like shopping, cooking, cleaning, and arranging important doctor’s appointments. Traditionally, the adult children of the elderly have been caregivers, monitoring their parent’s health and overseeing financial decisions, reports the article “ICYMI | Getting Older Without Family” from CPA Journal. Parents without children, or those without good relationships with children, need to make alternative arrangements. An experienced estate planning attorney can help.

Living arrangements. Most people prefer to remain in their homes, in familiar surroundings. This may work if the home can be made elderly-friendly and a support system is implemented. A home alert system or automatic daily call-ins can be arranged through friends or local police departments. If remaining at home is not viable, an assisted living facility or continuing care retirement community may be the next best option if the cost can be managed.

Healthcare matters. Having a healthcare advocate is advisable for everyone. So is a Healthcare Proxy, or Healthcare Power of Attorney, which designates a person to act as the patient’s agent in making decisions. A Living Will details the kind of treatment a person does or doesn’t want if they cannot express their wishes.

Finances. As they age, people may find managing their finances too difficult. There are several options, depending on the degree of help needed. A CPA or financial advisor may be able to provide money management services. Banks may permit an account owner to add the name of another person with signatory authority—they can sign checks but are not an account owner. A representative can be named to receive Social Security funds, and they must file reports with the Social Security Administration to show how the funds have been used.

Durable Power of Attorney. This is the most critical planning tool for seniors and others. This designates an agent to act on behalf of the elderly person in financial matters. It can be created to define the scope of the agent’s authority and remains effective when the elderly person becomes incapacitated. It must be created and executed when the person has the requisite capacity.

Trusts. A trust holds legal title to an older adult’s assets, including bank accounts, brokerage accounts, or their home. The trust is managed by a trustee for the benefit of the elderly person. There are several different trusts available, depending on the situation. A Living Trust can be used while the person can still manage assets and act as their trustee, retaining the right to revoke the trust and regain title to assets. If the person becomes incapacitated, another person named the successor or co-trustee takes over, assuming the trust has not been revoked. The trustee could be a trusted professional, a relative, or a bank trust department, which may be expensive but is a good option for an aging person with significant resources but no individual to serve as the trustee.

Instead of a living trust, the elderly person may set up an Irrevocable Lifetime Trust for Medicaid and long-term care planning purposes wherein someone else is designated a trustee from the start.

Aging alone may seem like a daunting experience, but with the right planning and support network in place, it can be rewarding, enjoyable, and safe.

Reference: CPA Journal (July 2023) “ICYMI | Getting Older Without Family”

What Does “Power of Attorney” Mean?

A power of attorney is a legal document giving one person—the “agent”—the legal power to make legal, financial, or medical decisions for another person. According to a recent article from Nerd Wallet, “What is a Power of Attorney (POA)? Types, How, When to Use,” the POA lets someone act on your behalf if you are traveling, too sick to act on your own behalf or can’t be present to sign legal documents.

You may name any adult, including your spouse, adult child, sibling, or a trusted friend, to act as your agent under power of attorney. It can be granted to anyone who is a legal adult and of sound mind. Ordinary power of attorney designations dissolve if you become incapacitated. However, durable power of attorney designations remain intact, even upon incapacity.

You can give one person power of attorney or divide the responsibilities among multiple people.

Most people don’t know that power of authority authorizations can be very specific or general, depending on your needs. When having an experienced estate planning attorney draft a power of attorney, review the desired scope of your agent’s authority, when it should take effect and the desired duration.

If you don’t have a power of attorney and become incapacitated, a court can appoint someone to act on your behalf. However, court intervention turns a private matter into a public proceeding, and you cannot know if the appointed conservator will follow your wishes.

There are several types of power of attorney. The durable power of attorney remains intact, even when you are incapacitated. The ordinary power of attorney becomes moot once you are incapacitated. A dual power of attorney gives power to two people and requires both individuals to sign off on any decisions.

A dual power of attorney may be useful if you have two children, for instance, and you’d like them to make joint decisions for you. Regardless of how many powers of attorney you appoint, you should always name successor agents for each power of attorney, in case the primary person is unable or unwilling to serve when needed.

A medical power of attorney, also called a health care proxy, is a type of advance directive giving another person to make all health care decisions for you in accordance with your wishes when you are unable to do so. Health care proxy decisions generally cover any type of medical treatment or procedure to diagnose and treat your health. Make sure the person you grant medical power of attorney to is familiar with your wishes and knows what decisions you would want in treatment or for life—supporting measures.

Reference: Nerd Wallet (May 10, 2023) “What is a Power of Attorney (POA)? Types, How, When to Use”