Updated: May 4
Believing it may bring bad luck, many people resist getting their legal and financial affairs in order for as long as possible. However, it’s not having taken care of these matters that will bring bad luck to you and your immediate family. And, as with all complicated family transactions, communication is the key to success (hopefully) without stress.
The power of attorney (POA) is a legal document where you designate a person - family member, friend, or another individual such as a lawyer, the right to act on your behalf. As is true for many legal procedures, the details vary from state to state. However, granting a POA to a designated individual involves a lawyer, a witness, and a notary.
While your doctor appreciates hearing your concerns, he cannot respond to comments or discuss a loved one’s condition without having a copy of the health POA on file. This document assures the doctor, as well as other healthcare providers, that the named individual has the authorization to receive confidential information and to make medical decisions on your behalf.
A second POA document gives a designated person permission to sign checks, deposit or withdraw money from your bank accounts, or interact with businesses on your behalf. Similar to the medical POA, the banks and businesses must have a copy of the POA on file before there can be an exchange of information or documents. It is best to designate the same person on both POA documents.
Only people who are demonstrably competent to make well-founded decisions may sign POA papers. If this is not the case, a family member may feel it is necessary to file a request with the courts to become your guardian and conservator – a lengthy, expensive, and emotionally exhausting process. People who have early-stage dementia usually have the capacity to make decisions and therefore are capable to sign a power of attorney papers.
With regard to personal finances, it is important to develop a comprehensive plan that both conforms to applicable state and federal regulations as well as parallels the stipulations of your POA documents. The comprehensive plan makes it possible for a family, or another designated person, to manage your finances in the case of infirmity. Upon death, your designee has immediate access to your accounts and thereby makes it possible for him to pay bills as well as to meet other expenses.
A similar plan should be applied to the management of any stocks, bonds, and certificates of deposit you may have. Trusts and annuities are other areas for exploration as are life and long-term care insurance policies.
Most people do not have the time, inclination, or the skills to develop a comprehensive plan to protect their savings and other assets
You can accomplish some of these tasks, such as opening a joint bank and checking accounts with the help of a bank associate. However, it’s imperative that you confer with the professionals who specialize in developing an individualized, comprehensive, and long-term plan to create income should you become infirm as well as to supplement your social security or disability benefits. Other facets of your individualized financial plan include strategies to protect your assets, and eventually, your estate. Some of the professionals you may need to see include an estate lawyer, an accountant, a financial advisor, and an insurance underwriter.
Yes, it is true. Neglecting to care of these legal and financial matters long before needed guarantees a future of insurmountable difficulties for you and your loved ones.
Content Contributor: Janet Yagoda Shagam, Ph.D., is a freelance medical and science writer and the author of "An Unintended Journey: A Caregiver's Guide to Dementia.", available through Amazon. Please visit our Author's page to learn more and find this title.
The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse nor guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of the content contained within blog posts- that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice, please consult your doctor. www.DementiaSociety.org