Powers of attorney are estate planning documents that authorize one adult to act on behalf of another. The person who drafts the power of attorney is the principal. The person they named to handle their affairs is their agent or attorney-in-fact.
Most people over the age of 18 could theoretically benefit from adding powers of attorney to their estate plans even if they already have basic testamentary documents, like a will. What benefits do people derive from drafting powers of attorney?
Peace of mind
Personal emergencies can arise at any moment due to a sudden change in health or an unpredictable incident, like a car crash. Someone with a family to support and resources to protect could end up unable to speak on their own behalf and manage their affairs. Powers of attorney help ensure that there is someone to address medical or financial matters. That way, people know that their family isn’t vulnerable and their resources aren’t at risk after an emergency.
Protection from guardianship
As people grow older, their cognitive abilities sometimes decline. Injuries and illnesses can also leave someone unable to manage their own affairs. Any member of their family or even professional caregivers could pursue a guardianship over someone who demonstrates a declining ability to manage their own affairs. Durable powers of attorney drafted in accordance with New York state law can protect someone from the risk of an involuntary guardianship in the future.
Support for their loved ones
A lot of pressure often falls on the spouse, parents or children of someone experiencing health challenges or a personal emergency. They may have a hard time making the right choices without any guidance and may argue amongst themselves about who has the best insight into the situation. Powers of attorney clarify who should act on someone’s behalf, thereby potentially eliminating conflict before it arises. They also provide guidance which can take the strain off of people who have to make those choices.
Powers of attorney help preserve relationships and assets while also protecting people from the unpredictable. Drafting powers of attorney can be a smart move for anyone over the age of 18 regardless of their marital status and personal resources.