Those who want to protect themselves and their families from unforeseeable emergencies often add living documents to their estate plans in addition to testamentary documents. For example, powers of attorney designations are beneficial for those who worry about who will handle their medical affairs or manage their finances if they are ever incapacitated by an injurious accident, an assault or even a swiftly-escalating infection.
People often spend quite a bit of time thinking about who would be the best agent or attorney-in-fact to name as a power of attorney. The chosen agent appointed in someone’s paperwork may eventually need to be altered. The three situations below are all viable reasons to go back and revisit the terms set in power of attorney documents.
1. A medical emergency or death
Perhaps the person that you named as the agent to handle your affairs experienced an emergency of their own that had major health implications for them. Perhaps they have a brain injury and can no longer manage the stress of their own household, let alone absorb the responsibility for someone else’s affairs.
In some cases, the chosen agent could die before the testator does. If someone is no longer able to fulfill their duties as outlined in the power of attorney paperwork, the testator may need to choose someone else.
2. A change in relationship
What was once a healthy and positive relationship may have soured over the years. Perhaps the person chosen as an agent has since developed serious behavioral issues, such as substance abuse. Sometimes, testators recognize that the person they chose no longer seems fit to handle such major responsibilities, and they have to make the difficult decision to remove that person from their paperwork and replace them with someone better able to act in their best interests if an emergency were to occur.
3. A massive shift in circumstances
Perhaps someone experiences an unanticipated degree of career success that multiplies the overall value of their property. They may need to bring in a professional fiduciary, which might mean that they choose to remove personal acquaintances from powers of attorney and other paperwork. Someone could also change religions or marry into a different family. A shift in relationships or financial holdings can sometimes be a viable reason to change an agent or attorney-in-fact named in someone’s power of attorney documentation.
Recognizing when it may be necessary to revisit estate planning paperwork can help to ensure that existing documents continue to effectively protect a testator’s interests for years to come. Working with a legal professional to keep one’s estate planning documentation current is just as important as working with a legal professional to draft that documentation in the first place.