Delaying estate planning is a very common mistake that otherwise responsible adults make. Some people don’t plan at all, while others put together a will or a trust but fail to draft living documents. Yet, thinking about incapacity can be just as important as addressing the inevitability of death. Although only a small percentage of people experience true incapacity, those who do are in a very vulnerable position. Powers of attorney can be very useful documents for those who experience some kind of medical emergency in Illinois.
People may put together financial and/or medical powers of attorney. Oftentimes, they have their lawyers include language that makes those documents durable should they become permanently incapacitated. These are the primary reasons that people add powers of attorney to an otherwise simple estate plan.
They have resources they need to protect
Someone who owns a home or runs a business would not be able to properly manage their resources after an emergency. Their loved ones could also be vulnerable if they depend on but do not have the right to control those resources. Their assets could be at risk of collection activity or mismanagement during their incapacitation. Drafting financial powers of attorney helps to ensure that there is someone competent to manage an individual’s resources when they are incapable of doing so on their own behalf.
They have specific medical wishes or a debilitating condition
Health issues are often what prompt people to draft powers of attorney. They recognize that they may need someone to speak on their behalf if their condition worsens. Even if someone does not yet have a debilitating medical issue, they may have very strong preferences regarding the type of treatment that they receive because of their personal history or their faith. Medical powers of attorney help ensure that someone an individual trusts can act as their agent to handle their health care matters when they can’t make their own wishes known to others.
They want to avoid guardianship or conservatorship
The Illinois probate courts can award an outside party control over someone’s daily life or finances. An individual has no control over who becomes a conservator or guardian once the courts view them as permanently incapacitated. People can sidestep that very unpleasant scenario by drafting durable powers of attorney. Those documents will retain authority even when they permanently lose the right to speak on their own behalf in a court of law. A durable power of attorney essentially allows someone to select their own conservator or guardian.
Recognizing the value of a power of attorney can help people see why including such documents in their estate plans may be a wise decision.