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Establishing powers of attorney before it's too late

For aging and elderly New York residents, there is a lot to think about when it comes to preparing for the future. Medicaid planning, asset protection and the like are a few of the issues that need to be addressed to make sure that family members and loved ones are cared for and not overburdened financially. But for the senior individuals themselves, one of the most important aspects may be that of establishing powers of attorney.

Individuals can designate whether the named agent has powers to conduct financial matters, health care issues, or both. A health care power of attorney means the agent has authority to make medical decisions once the individual is no longer able to make them for him or herself because of a medical condition. Advisors recommend discussing the aging individual's wishes and having the power of attorney documentation drawn up and executed with a lawyer far in advance, before the individual begins having any difficulties with specific aspects of life.

When the legal documentation is signed, the person granting the power must be competent to make decisions and of sound mind. As such, anyone considered incapable -- such as someone in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's -- would not be able to establish powers of attorney. In those circumstances, a guardianship application would have to be made to a court, a time-consuming and typically costly process. Without a designated power of attorney or court appointment, friends and family members face difficulties when trying to make important financial or health care decisions on behalf of their elderly loved one.

Drafting the documentation for powers of attorney requires many of the same legal procedures as does preparing a will. Because of the important nature of the documents, advisors recommend consulting a lawyer. A New York elder law attorney who has experience in helping to prepare living wills, advance health care directives and similar legal documentation would be able to provide valuable counsel and guidance throughout the procedure.

Source: aikenstandard.com, "ON THE MONEY: The durable power of attorney", Greg Roberts, Oct 7, 2017

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