Durable powers of attorney for property and health care are two very important estate planning documents. Having both in place allows you to avoid opening a guardianship with the Court which is expensive and time consuming. Because the individuals chosen will have to coordinate your care, it is important to pick two people who will get along. You can also have the same person serve as the agent for both powers of attorney.
A power of attorney for property allows a person you appoint – your agent or “attorney-in-fact” – to act in your place for financial purposes whether or nor you are incapacitated.It can be used for convenience when a financial transaction requires your signing documents and you would prefer that your agent attend the signing. A health care power of attorney is a document that gives an agent the authority to make health care decisions for you only if you are unable to, e.g., you are unconscious or lack mental capacity.
While the agent under the health care power of attorney is the one who makes the health care decisions, the agent under the power of attorney for property is the one who needs to pay for the health care. If the two agents disagree, there is a problem. For example, your health care agent may decide that you need 24-hour care at home, but your property agent may think a nursing home is the better option and refuse to pay for the at-home care. Any disagreements would have to be settled in court, which will take time and drain your resources in the process.
The easiest way to avoid conflicts is to choose the same person to do both jobs. But this may not always be feasible – for example, perhaps the person you would choose as agent for health care is not good with finances. If you pick different people for each role, then you should think about picking two people who can get along and work together. You should also talk to both agents about your wishes for medical care so that they both understand what you want.
Contact an estate planning law firm for further information.