Those who have a will or trust are already ahead of the curve as far as the average American’s management of their estate concerns. Those who have drafted powers of attorney probably have better protection for themselves and their loved ones in the event of an emergency than the vast majority of adults.
People who make the effort to address the possibility of incapacitation and the need for someone to handle their medical or financial matters will have less to worry about or lose if they ever experience an emergency that leaves them unconscious or unable to communicate with others. Powers of attorney help people arrange for financial and medical support when they will be at their most vulnerable.
Occasionally, it may be necessary to revisit powers of attorney and update them, with the three updates below being among the most common.
1. Changing the agent named in the paperwork
One of the most common updates people will make to their powers of attorney involves choosing someone new to serve as their agent. Perhaps they have had a falling out with the friend or family member they previously elected to manage their finances or health matters in an emergency. Maybe the selected individual died, moved away or had a medical issue arise that will leave them incapable of fulfilling the responsibilities assigned to them. Occasionally, testators will need to replace the agent or attorney in fact that they chose to act on their behalf.
2. Adjusting when the documents take effect
Perhaps someone is about to undergo cancer treatments, and they recognize that short-term incapacitation may occur if they have a negative reaction to chemotherapy. Someone who previously had standard, boilerplate documents may want to add more specific and limited terms that reduce when an individual can act on their behalf. Those who have health concerns or who have reached an advanced age may want to more carefully outline when someone will have the necessary authority to act on their behalf.
3. Changing their medical or financial instructions
Maybe the testator has acquired new property or liquidated certain assets that would previously have required management. Perhaps their changing health or family circumstances have led to an adjustment of their prior medical wishes. There are many circumstances in which an individual’s financial and medical preferences or support requirements will change. It may be necessary to update powers of attorney to reflect those changes, especially if someone has specific needs that could go unmet without including them in their powers of attorney.
Seeking legal guidance to update powers of attorney and also regularly reviewing estate planning documents can afford people enhanced protections in an emergency and better peace of mind on a day-to-day basis.