I often talk about the two big questions we ask (and answer) when preparing a client’s estate plan:
· No. 1 => What happens to my stuff when I die?
· No. 2 => What happens to me and my stuff if I’m temporarily or permanently incapacitated?
Today, we’ll discuss how we typically answer the second BIG question... We use documents called “advanced directives.”
God forbid, if I’m in an accident on the way home from work today, and I’m unconscious at the hospital, my wife, Amie, won’t have the legal authority to handle my financial affairs. She can’t hire an attorney for me, she can’t file an insurance claim on my behalf, she can’t speak with my creditors about payment arrangements, and so on. Similarly, if I’m aging and I begin to experience dementia or memory loss, my family won’t have the power to help me pay my bills, make application for benefits, or handle other legal, financial, or medical decisions.
If I haven’t properly planned and I need help from a loved one or friend to make these decisions for me, my family will have to initiate expensive, time-consuming guardianship proceedings. A court of law will have to appoint a legal guardian to help me.
We generally use two types of advanced directives to solve this potential problem. First, a Durable Power of Attorney allows me to appoint an agent, someone I trust (a family member, friend, or professional fiduciary) to make financial decisions and handle my financial and legal affairs. And second, a Health Care Surrogate Designation lets me choose a surrogate to obtain medical information, give informed consent, make application for benefits, and so forth, when I can’t do so on my own.
These simple advanced directives allow my clients to choose the person(s) they trust to help them with financial and medical affairs. If you’d like to get more information about how we can help you or a loved one responsibly plan for the future, please contact us at (813) 244-7758 or Ross@RossSpanoLaw.com.