What would happen if you were no longer able to care for yourself or your home? For many people, the financial recovery after an accident adds insult to injury and takes longer than the physical and emotional recovery. This is often due to not having anyone named on a power of attorney to have the authority to access your bank accounts, contact utility companies on your behalf, make sure the rent or mortgage gets paid or even make medical decisions. Once you turn 18 years old, you are an adult and no one else can speak or act for you without having a power of attorney in place. Without powers of attorney, your loved ones will be forced to the world of court battles and guardianship.
Two simple documents can avoid lots of heartache and attorney fees: The Durable Power of Attorney and Medical Power of Attorney.
durable power of attorney
The Statutory Durable Power of Attorney is an important part of everyone’s overall estate plan. This document allows you to name a person to step in and handle financial transactions and decisions for you in the event that you are temporarily unable to do so yourself. For example, in the event you are injured and in the hospital for an extended period of time a durable power of attorney will permit someone to pay your rent so you have a place to live when you are released.
medical power of attorney
The Medical Power of Attorney is a very important document for anyone who is over 18 years old. By law, no one other than your spouse can make medical decisions for you. Hospitals and health care facilities are not allowed to release information to anyone unless there is a Medical Power of Attorney and HIPAA Release on file.
So what happens if you don’t have a spouse? If you’re over 18 and something happens to you, even your parents will need this document to assist with the decision making process.
The person assigned as Medical Power of Attorney is only authorized to make decisions for your welfare. They are consulted by physicians and other health care professionals in choosing between types of treatment. They cannot order that no treatment be given. Additionally, they never override your personal decisions. If you are awake, alert and capable of making decisions, the medical professionals will talk to you first.
HIPAA is short for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-191). HIPAA has 2 major parts: Title I and Title II. Title I pertains to protection for health insurance coverage for workers and their families in times of job change. Title II addresses administrative provisions. The Act was created to establish national standards for electronic health care data and makes it easier to share health data. Unfortunately, the privacy restrictions in the Act had unintended consequences for families. It is now imperative that you have a HIPAA release naming the people who you want to have access to your medical information.
Guardianship occurs when a person is deemed to be incapacitated and a court determines that someone needs to be appointed to ensure their safety and security. The Declaration of Guardian document allows you to state those whom you trust to have appointed by the court if the need ever arises. Signing this document does not make a person your Guardian; it simply instructs the court who should serve as Guardian in the event you need one. The document can also instruct the court on persons you wish to disqualify.
An Appointment of Guardian For Children document allows you to specify who you want to take care of your children in the case of your death or incapacity. If you don’t make this election, it is likely that a court will decide who takes control of your children and their assets upon your death.