Designating powers of attorney for health care and finances are vital now more than ever
By Ann M. Fischer
It is more important than ever to have powers of attorney (POA) in place for your finances and for your health care. There are many cases where people find themselves suffering financial consequences because they did not prepare a POA before an event occurred that rendered them incapable of handling their affairs.
In Illinois, for example, if you contract to sell your home or to purchase a home and you were hospitalized or had to quarantine due to COVID-19, you may have to delay your closing, which could have several financial repercussions. You may have to pay a per diem for not vacating the property on time, or as the buyer, you may have to pay to extend your rate lock. If you have a power of attorney in place prior to falling ill, then the person you have appointed can sign the necessary documents on your behalf in a timely manner.
Another concern is for people that do not have a healthcare power of attorney in place. Everyone has heard the stories of how quickly people become severely ill and require hospitalization from COVID-19, and about multiple family member failing ill at the same time. If you have a power of attorney for health care, you should also name a successor agent to act for you in the event the primary agent is unavailable. It is also a good idea to speak with the person you are naming as an agent regarding your wishes if you want to be put on life support or a ventilator. If it is not clear who will make your health care decisions, your family members may be arguing about treatment options.
If someone is determined to be mentally incapable to manage their own affairs, and they have not put a POA in place prior to the diagnosis, the family will have to petition the court to appoint someone as guardian. The processes of being appointed guardian of a disabled person can be costly and time consuming because the court has to assess the situation and decide who will be making decisions for the incapacitated person. If the incapacitated person set up a POA, the court is not involved in the processes and the agent can act for the principal.
If you have questions about POAs or other estate plans, feel free to contact Gardi & Haught and we can help to guide you.