Powers of attorney are useful protective documents that a surprising number of testators overlook when creating their estate plans. Some people don’t think about the risk of incapacitation, while others simply procrastinate about addressing this concern.
Those who take the time to plan for the possibility of medical incapacitation in the future and not just death provide the best support for themselves and clarity for the people that they love. They can also help ensure that the people making choices on their behalf will have their best interests in mind.
It is somewhat common for people to separate financial and medical matters and draft two separate powers of attorney. They will name a different individual as agent in each of the documents, effectively splitting the support role between two individuals. Why do people name someone different in their financial power of attorney than they do in their medical one?
They broaden their personal safety net
The sad truth is that the situation that leaves you incapacitated could affect other people too. Whether you get hurt in a car crash or a house fire, the possibility exists for others to suffer similar injuries or to die at the time of your injury.
When you only name one person to manage your financial and medical matters, there is a higher chance that both of you will become incapacitated at the same time or that they will die, leaving you without protection when you need it the most. By having separate people named, there is a better chance that at least one of those two individuals will be able to step up and act in your best interests.
They help prevent conflicts of interest and misconduct
If someone with financial power of attorney and control over your resources can also make medical decisions about your care, they might act in a manner to preserve their access to and control over your resources rather than do what is best for you. When you separate these two forms of authority, you reduce the possibility that someone would misuse their role for personal financial gain.
Thinking critically about who you can trust when you are vulnerable and how to prevent abuses of the authority that you delegate to others will help you create an estate plan that protects you effectively.