Incapacity planning and estate planning go hand-in-hand, especially when it comes to power of attorney. Everyone in the state of New York who wants to create an estate plan and be prepared for the possibility that you might one day become incapacitated must create one or more powers of attorney. These documents, regardless of your age, sex, or personal situation, will allow you to protect yourself and your interests should something happen to you. Here are two reasons why every adult in New York needs to create a power of attorney as soon as possible.
You need a power of attorney because you have financial responsibilities.
If you’re like most people, you have bills that need to be paid, money that needs to be managed, property that needs to be looked after, and any number of other financial responsibilities. If something happened to you tomorrow, what would happen to those responsibilities? Would someone be there to step in and take over? Would that person know what you own, what needs to be attended to, and how to do it? Would he or she know who to talk to, or have an understanding of exactly what kind of financial responsibilities you have?
Not knowing the answers to these questions is exactly why you need to create a power of attorney. A financial power of attorney will give you the ability to name an agent who will take over your financial responsibilities should you lose your ability to do so.
You need a power of attorney because you have medical wishes.
In recent weeks the stories of Marlise Munoz and Jahi McMath have gained national prominence. Both of these cases involved incapacitated people who were unable to communicate their medical wishes. What would happen to you if you found yourself in a similar situation? Do you know the kind of treatment you want? Does your family know the choices you’ve made? Are you confident that there will be someone around who will be able to tell your doctors exactly what kind of care you do, or do not, wish to receive?
Again, if you don’t know the answers to these questions, a power of attorney will allow you to be confident that your choices will be honored. In the state of New York, you have the ability to create what is known as a health care proxy. This proxy is a type of power of attorney that gives you the ability to name a health care agent. Should you become incapacitated, that agent will be able to tell your doctors what kind of care you would want to receive. If you never lose your capacity, there is no need for the agent to step in. But, if you don’t have a proxy, a court may have to get involved and decide who makes medical choices for you.