“Power of Attorney? Is my lawyer trying out for a role in The Avengers?”
No, but with all the money you pay an attorney he/she could ostensibly buy an Iron Man suit.
Estate planning goes beyond your basic will. Stats show that one in four 30-year olds will become disabled before retiring- the unfortunate reality is that you’re more likely to become incapacitated than you are to die. Since we’re not invincible, you better have this super team of legal documents.
Power of Attorney
With this legal doc, you appoint someone to act on your behalf on important estate matters. If you drunkenly challenged the Hulk to an arm wrestling match, for instance, and now you can’t attend the closing on your new home, your power of attorney allows your spouse or whoever else you choose to complete and sign paperwork for you. Choose someone trustworthy who has your best interests in mind, and not the family friend you’ve bailed out of financial trouble one too many times.
If you collide with Thor’s hammer and are totally incapacitated, however, that PoA better be durable too. If you lose your ability to make decisions, a durable power of attorney allows your agent to make decisions on your behalf. When you file a durable PoA, you can also specify what the definition of “incapacitated” means to you. A non-durable PoA, however, allows your agent to fulfill a specific function while you’re away and can be revoked at any time. If you’re in a serious accident, your non-durable PoA automatically ends, so your agent may not be able to make those durable decisions for you.
Depending on which state you live in, you need to specify if your PoA is durable of non-durable- your state may automatically assume it’s durable.
Financial Power of Attorney
You know how banks are ever so slightly fussy and they expect you and only you to sign off on things? Annoying but necessary, right? For those of us without a protective Iron Man suit, you’ll also need someone who will pay your bills or manage your investments. The person you choose doesn’t need to be a tax expert or CFA, but they should know how to choose and work with accountants and other financial professionals. Again, picking that spendy family friend is probably not a good call here.
Healthcare Proxy/Living Will
A healthcare proxy is your durable medical power of attorney. If you’re too ill to clearly communicate your wishes, this document gives your spouse or whoever else you designate the power to make medical decisions on your behalf. A health care declaration is what we know as the living will- a separate document stating which procedures you want or don’t want if you’re out of commission- like if you’re not down with feeding tubes, for example. Together, this dynamic duo of medical orders is known as the advanced health care directive.
Your agent should not only be someone who’ll fight for you, but someone who's on board with your wishes- if your advocate is morally opposed to Do Not Resuscitate orders, do them and yourself a favor and name another person.
You can use the same executor or agent for all your PoAs or you can designate separate ones for each- just make sure those people get along and aren’t your ex-spouse and your current spouse. You can draft one with an online template and get the form notarized with a witness present; if your PoA deals with real estate, it gets filed at your county court office. Be sure to have copies easily accessible- your PoA won’t help you if it’s buried underneath all your superhero gear.