Just creating the absolutely essential estate documents won’t fully protect you. It’s best to consider documents that you may only need in unusual circumstances, not just the most basic and standard forms.
Most people never need powers of attorney. These documents help protect adults by giving authority to another trusted individual to manage health care matters or conduct financial transactions. Powers of attorney typically only have authority when the person who drafted the document experiences medical incapacitation, like a coma or severe dementia that prevents them from making their own decisions.
Although the circumstances in which they are necessary are rare compared to other issues, that doesn’t mean you should ignore the possibility of incapacity in your future. You never know when a car crash or a freak accident might leave you unconscious in the hospital for months. When should you create powers of attorney to protect yourself?
Young adults need powers of attorney
Once someone turns 18, their parents lose the legal right to access their medical records and make decisions for them. A power of attorney can give that authority back to parents or name someone else that a new adult trusts to protect and advocate for them in the event of an emergency.
Young adults going away to college or starting their first career absolutely benefit from powers of attorney because otherwise, there may be no one to make their medical decisions or pay their bills.
Health issues often prompt the creation of powers of attorney
Some people create basic estate plans when they become adults but don’t think about drafting powers of attorney until they have health issues later in life. Someone considering the practical consequences of a recent diagnosis with a condition like Alzheimer’s disease might use powers of attorney to choose their own guardian when they can no longer handle their own affairs. Those worried about the impact of a terminal illness may need to make similar decisions.
The best time to draft powers of attorney is before you ever need them. Whether you haven’t created an estate plan yet or need to update documents you created decades ago, it may be time to consider adding the protection of powers of attorney. Learning more about powers of attorney and other estate planning documents can help you invest in the right tools to optimize your protection.