Mar 05, 2013
By Rick Law, Elder Law Attorney in the Western Suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.
I recently sat down and spoke with my senior paralegal about powers of attorney. She had some great insights because she has worked in law firms that practice in the area of estate planning for 20+ years. Here’s what she had to say:
I have often gotten the call that says, “We need wills.” This is generally prompted by one of two scenarios. First, a couple is getting on a plane for the first time since having children. They realize, perhaps for the first time, that they need to plan for the possibility that they could die! You can’t believe how “last minute” this call can come. When I ask when they would like to come in, they tell me that they need the wills by Friday (and today isTuesday), because their plane leaves Saturday morning. Nothing like planning ahead!
The second circumstance that often prompts this call is when people receive news that someone they know who is their age or younger has unexpectedly passed away. It might be the first time they’ve considered that they’re not going to live forever.
What I tell people is that what they really need – as much if not more than a will – are powers of attorney. I tell them everyone over the age of 18 needs powers of attorney.
Powers of attorney are about you and how you are cared for when you are living but not able to make decisions for yourself.
These documents come into play when someone becomes disabled as result of a disease, an accident or some other type of tragedy. They allow a person (the principal) to appoint another person (the agent) to be their intercessor, their decision-maker when the principal can no longer make his/her own decisions.
Powers of attorney should be an essential part of every estate plan. If a person becomes unable to make decisions and no powers of attorney are in place, a court action called a “guardianship” is necessary; the person becomes a ward of the court and a guardian is appointed. Any decisions to be made by the guardian with regards to healthcare or finances must be presented to and approved by the court.
Terri Schiavo made the country strikingly aware of the problems presented when no power of attorney has been executed to state the person’s wishes regarding life-sustaining issues and to appoint an agent to carry out those end of life decisions.
Many people believed the husband should have had the power to end her life – and many others believed that her parents should have been allowed to keep her alive and care for her. Many promoted her right to die, and many advocated for the value of her life.
No matter what opinion you held, you probably held an opinion. Terri Schiavo’s plight made the entire country aware of the need for individuals to have powers of attorney for healthcare decision-making in place.
Too many families needlessly lose everything they have. Don’t let that be you. If you need help building a fortress around your estate to protect it from creditors, predators, and the cost of chronic disease, give our office a call at 800-310-3100. Your first consultation is absolutely free. We’ll let you know what steps you need to take, right now, to protect yourself and your family. Call now, because when you’re out of money, you’re out of options!
Rick L. Law, Attorney, Estate Planner for Retirees.
Rick was named the #1 Illinois elder law estate planning attorney by Leading Lawyer Magazine. He has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, AARP Magazine, TheStreet.com, and numerous newspapers and articles. Rick is the lead attorney for Law Elder Law, LLP, focusing in Estate Planning, Guardianship, and Nursing Home Solutions. His goal is to give retirees an informed edge when it comes to dealing with an uncertain future. Get flexible retirement strategies that work during good times and bad, plus information on how you can save your home and assets from being used to pay for long term care. Appointments available in Chicago, Aurora, Oak Brook, Schaumburg, and Joliet. Call 800-310-3100 for your free consultation now!
“You don’t have to leave your family a lot of money. You really don’t have to leave them anything.
Just don’t leave them a mess.
Law Hesselbaum has made sure we won’t leave our family with a mess.”
M. C., Client of Law Hesselbaum and Law Elder Law