At some point in our lives, it’s possible that we will no longer be able to make decisions for ourselves. This could happen for many reasons: dementia, coma, a debilitating illness, stroke, or other condition could render us unable or unfit to make decisions related to our own care and finances. As with so many things in retirement, it’s important to plan ahead when selecting someone you trust who can make these decisions for you when you are no longer able. To do this, you must assign a trusted person or “agent” power of attorney over your medical care and/or finances in a legal document.
What can your agent do?
You will determine the general or specific areas where your agent can act on your behalf. You may want to award someone a general power of attorney over all of your financial and medical decisions. However, you can also assign power of attorney for your financial and medical decisions separately. Sometimes, your agent may refuse these responsibilities or may have already passed away when the time comes to make these important decisions for you. That’s why it’s important to appoint a secondary agent in your power of attorney document.
Who should be your agent?
When choosing an agent to act on your behalf, it’s absolutely vital that you choose someone trust implicitly and who understands your financial and medical wishes, if they are given those respective responsibilities. If you have a loved one who understands your medical wishes but whom you know is financially irresponsible, it may be useful to divide power of attorney so that they have medical power of attorney but not financial power of attorney. Note that lawyers and accountants can also be assigned power of attorney, but may charge a fee. If at any time you find that you no longer trust your assigned agent or uncover a conflict of interest, you should be sure to revoke their power of attorney immediately using the proper forms.
There are many resources out there to help you understand these issues. At Bethany Village, all of our residents have access to help from licensed social workers who can help them make these important decisions. If you have a trusted family legal representative, be sure to contact them for more information about power of attorney.