Do I need a Healthcare Proxy and/or Power of Attorney?

The short answer is… YES.

The Basics: A Health Care Proxy is a legal document that allows another person to make medical decisions on your behalf. A Power of Attorney, on the other hand, is a legal document that allows another person to make and/or execute financial decisions on your behalf.

Why a Health Care Proxy is Important: Medical emergencies can occur at any age. If or when that day comes, someone must make medical decisions on your behalf.

Every person has different beliefs/opinions regarding medical decisions. These decisions range from long term care facility preferences to medical procedures you would and would not like performed. These are intensely personal decisions that have taken you a lifetime to develop. By selecting a Health Care Proxy (HCP for short) in advance of a medical emergency, you have the ability to choose someone that shares in these beliefs/opinions. Without such a document, family members or a court appointed individual may make decisions on your behalf without this knowledge. And, in some cases, this results in actions being taken or not taken that you do not agree with.

Therefore, a HCP is an essential document, in order to make sure that your wishes are carried out, when you are no longer able to make the decisions yourself.

Why a Power of Attorney is Important: Again, medical emergencies can occur at any age. If or when that day comes, someone must make and execute financial decisions on your behalf.

One of the biggest reason to select a Power of Attorney (POA for short) prior to a medical emergency is TRUST. As with health decisions, financial matters are intensely personal. By creating a POA, you can select someone that you know has similar beliefs/opinions regarding money as you do.

A second major reason to select a POA is that the future is UNPREDICTABLE. For years you have planned for your future. You have been putting away money for a house, children’s college tuition, retirement, etc. But then the unexpected happens. That money you have been saving now needs to be used for a different and unforeseen purpose; such as a child with disabilities, the unexpected loss of a job or medical bills. When you are in charge of your finances, you can make these alterations and move forward. However, if you are unable to make financial decisions on your own, a POA will be able to continually monitor your finances and make the necessary changes to protect you into the future. Without such an individual, you may be stuck with the plan that you created prior to your incapacitation that is no longer in your best interest.

As with the HCP, if you do not have a POA the court can appoint someone to act on your behalf. However, this person may not share your beliefs/opinions, may be appointed too late to correct financial errors or may be unwilling/unable to make the decisions/changes you would have. Therefore, it is important to select your own POA, and understand how your finances will be handled when you are no longer capable of handling them on your own.

Conclusion: The future is unpredictable. Put together a Healthcare Proxy and Power of Attorney now so that your future is a little more protected from the unpredictably negative turns life can take.

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