In my years of practice, I have addressed the issue of when accidents – whether due to car accidents, strokes, or other debilitating illnesses – happen unexpectedly. I have seen firsthand the difficulties this causes families.
While many people do prepare for end of life planning – i.e. a Last Will and Testament – oftentimes people do not consider whether an accident or illness could occur and render them incapable of making decisions on their own behalf. Just like one should consider and prepare for what they want to occur upon passing, people should prepare themselves for when the unexpected happens. In this respect, a document known as a Power of Attorney is an extremely useful tool in providing another person with the ability to act on your behalf. This ensures your family’s operations will continue to run smoothly even in the face of injury or illness.
A Power of Attorney can be drafted very narrowly or more broadly. This means that individual has the ability to provide broad authority or narrow authority to their “attorney in fact” to act on their behalf. Thus, when an accident or illness occurs, dependent upon what the Power of Attorney actually says, your affairs can continue seamlessly. While you may not be able to act on your own behalf, another person can.
In the event that a Power of Attorney is not in place at the time of injury or illness and you do not have the capacity to make decisions on your own behalf, your loved ones will need to institute formal guardianship proceedings to act on your behalf – a process which can be time consuming, expensive and avoidable.
Written by Erika Kelley, Esquire from Cooper Levenson Attorneys at Law