It is never too early to think about and put in writing your desires about what you want to see happen if you should become incapable of making decisions for yourself. This is something that many of the baby boom generation in Pennsylvania may only be coming to realize now as they become the sandwich generation. Many still have children at home. At the same time, they have parents who need extra attention and care as they get into their 70s, 80s and 90s.
If these dual-generationers are lucky, their parents have instituted the necessary powers of attorney that allow others they trust to step up and make medical or financial decisions on their behalf. If they are wise, they have already talked to their own children about such matters and drafted their own power of attorney documents as part of a comprehensive estate plan. And before millennials get to be too far along it would be wise for them to think about such things as well.
Here are some observations to keep in mind as you think about who you might want to exercise power of attorney for you. The scope of power granted can vary. It's up to you to decide what can be done. If you aren't very clear the state may grant powers much broader than you intended.
In the area of health care decisions, unless specified in a living will, your agent might be called upon to:
- Approve or deny medical care.
- Decide where you get care.
- Determine what health care providers you see.
- Petition the court in the event of medical disputes.
- Make a decision about what happens to your body after death.
This agent typically will also have access to your medical records and have visitation rights if you are hospitalized.
If you choose a separate person financial power of attorney, they might be expected to:
- Pay your bills.
- Be responsible for your personal taxes.
- Pay medical expenses.
- Manage real estate holdings.
This person may also be able to access your bank and retirement accounts, make investments in your name, hire someone in your name, and more. As with the health care power of attorney, clear limits can be set on the scope of power granted.
The limits are yours to set and that should be done in consultation with an attorney.