Even if you’re one of the minority of adults who have bothered to create your Last Will and Testament, your estate planning may not yet be complete. That’s because the disposition of your earthly possessions at death is but one of the concerns that your planning needs to address. Unfortunately, death is not the only thing that can befall each of us – though it is certainly the most inevitable. Untold millions of us could also face incapacity in the future, leaving our families with the stress and worries that can accompany the guardianship process. To prevent that problem, it’s important to understand these five facts about the Michigan Power of Attorney.
A Living Will is Not Enough
If you’ve studied incapacity planning at all, then you’ve probably noticed that many areas of the country still rely at least somewhat on the living will to help patients provide instructions about the type of care that they want to receive. For some time, those living wills were so commonly used that health care staff would routinely ask patients whether they had such a document on file. Even now, some people in Michigan are no doubt relying on living wills as part of their incapacity plan – operating under the assumption that this document is all they need to ensure that their wishes will be followed if an incapacitation occurs.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case in Michigan. If you’re relying on a living will in this state, then your family will be in for a bit of a shock if anything ever happens to you. In our state, you need a durable power of attorney for health care – or, as some refer to it, the Patient Advocate Designation, or PAD. This power of attorney is a powerful document that enables you to appoint someone to serve as your advocate if you can no longer represent yourself. That advocate is empowered to make health care decisions for you. You can also use the PAD to define the types of life-sustaining care you’re willing to receive, questions about organ donation, and other important medical concerns.
Powers of Attorney Can Address Both Financial and Medical Concerns
A serious incapacity plan should always include powers of attorney that encompass health care and financial concerns. To address financial concerns, you’ll need a durable power of attorney for finances that properly designates someone you trust to serve as your attorney-in-facts. This agent will be assigned to take over the management and care of your financial concerns if you ever become unable to manage them yourself. As with the power of attorney for health care, the exact powers that you grant to the agent will depend upon your anticipated needs.
So, why do you need someone to manage your finances? Well, contrary to what most people might believe, spouses and other close relatives rarely have special rights when it comes to acting in on a loved one’s behalf in these instances. If your spouse is suddenly incapacitated, banks and other companies won’t suddenly start taking instructions from you unless you have the right authorizing documents. And if there is no incapacity plan in place before the incapacitation occurs, you’ll have to go to court to get that authority.
On the financial side of the equation, that would mean delays in the ability to access accounts to pay necessary bills, potential disruptions in business operations, and other financial problems. Those who depend on those financial resources could suffer deprivation while you go through the guardianship process in court. The circumstances could be just as dire when it comes to medical decisions.
Your Power of Attorney Needs to Be Tailored to Your Needs
While it might seem that just about any power of attorney will do in a pinch, you should ensure that yours is tailored to meet your unique needs. This need for a targeted approach to handling your power of attorney needs is why so many experts suggest that individuals avoid those one-size-fits-all boilerplate documents. Your needs may not match up with the provisions of such a document.
For example, if you’re approaching your senior years, you may need to include asset protection powers to ensure that your long-term care needs can be properly met. Your attorney can help you to make an informed decision about the type of financial and medical decision-making powers you want to provide for your agent.
POA Laws Have Changed
You should be cognizant of the fact that the Michigan law on power of attorney has changed within the last five years. If you have a previously-existing POA created prior to October, 2012, then you should have it reviewed by your attorney to ensure that it still does all that you need done. The changes relate to the acknowledgment of acceptance that your agents need to sign. Granted, the law doesn’t require that those older POAs be updated to reflect this change, but you’re probably due for a checkup anyway.
You Need HIPAA Authorization
Have you signed HIPAA authorizations for all those people you want to have access to your medical records? If not, then that’s something you should do before you become incapacitated. Remember, your POA may give your agent the power to make health care decisions, but that power is essentially useless if he or she lacks access to basic information about your case.
The good news is that these important components of your incapacity plan are relatively simple and quick to put into effect. And with that minimal investment of time and money, you can ensure that your loved ones are freed from stress and anguish that no one should have to endure. At Biddinger, Bitzer & Estelle, PLLC, our legal team can provide you with the Michigan power of attorney documents you need to ensure that your incapacity plan provides the protection you and your family deserve. To learn more about how we can assist you in your efforts to safeguard your interests and your loved ones against incapacitation, contact us online or call us today at (989) 872-5601.