The Importance of Powers of Attorney
When you think about making a will, there is more to consider than the question of who you want your assets to go to upon your death. Today, estate planning allows for the creation of legal documents that do a great deal more than simply direct assets. Although directing assets is an important consideration in planning for the future, a skilled attorney can assist in minimizing taxes, controlling the future use of assets, planning for the financial well-being of children and grandchildren, and avoiding probate.
Additionally, today’s advanced medical technology allows many people to live longer, increasing the likelihood of nursing care, tremendous medical expenses and the possibility that life will be prolonged while mental capacity is diminished. Several methods are available to deal with these problems, including powers of financial attorney, medical powers of attorney, and advanced directives or living wills.
A financial power of attorney allows a spouse, an adult child, parent or a close relative to handle the financial affairs of an incapacitated or seriously ill person. The execution of a power of attorney can prevent the need for a court-appointed guardian (a person appointed to make decisions regarding another person) or conservator (a person appointed to make decisions regarding a person’s financial affairs). These court proceedings are considered by many to be unduly invasive, expensive and slow. Financial powers of attorney can be limited in scope and can spring into effect only when a person becomes incapacitated.
A durable medical power of attorney appoints an agent to make healthcare decisions when a person is no longer able to do so. These documents can authorize withdrawal of life support measures if the person is suffering from a terminal condition. A terminal condition is defined as a condition that is incurable or irreversible and from which death will occur without the use of life-sustaining procedures. The medical power of attorney may permit the withholding of life-sustaining procedures, including the artificial administration of fluids and foods that only serve to prolong the dying process or prolong life in a permanent vegetative state. There are, however, statutory requirements for the execution of these documents.
Arizona law allows for a person to create an advanced directive that provides far-reaching instructions to family and doctors on how a person should be treated when he or she is in an incompetent condition. A person can direct that nutrition, hydration, C.P.R., mechanical respiration, surgeries, kidney dialysis, transfusion of blood or medications not be employed under certain circumstances.
An attorney familiar with these documents can assist in the protection of assets from healthcare and government creditors and can assist in gift and tax planning.