By: Lorri Gifford
Granting Power of Attorney: Whom Do You Trust to Act on Your Behalf?
Control freaks be warned, this month we will be talking about letting someone act on our behalf. To do this, some of us may need to take a step back and practice being able to receive. To find out how you allow abundance into your life, take a moment and finish the following sentences (honestly):
When someone gives me a compliment I ________________________________
When someone offers to do something for me, I __________________________
When I receive an unexpected windfall I _________________________________
When someone offers advice, I ________________________________________
In order for abundance to occur in our lives we must first be able to receive it. Sometimes to receive we have to be willing to surrender our control. And sometimes in life, the ability for us to control a situation is taken out of our hands. But, control freaks take heart, you can still have input if you take a little time now to choose someone to act on your behalf should you become unable to.
…The best laid schemes of mice and men, Go often awry… Robert Burns
Who would you choose to act on your behalf if you were unable to? That is the topic of this month’s article. Take a moment now and think about that. Who is currently in your life that you would trust to take on this task. Who would you trust to carry out your wishes for you?
Learning to delegate while trusting that the job will get done can be a difficult task for some. When I was working at the Chopra Center and managing the Spa, I was not very good at delegating. I often thought that I was the only one that could do it right or get it done. Each time a task came across my desk I felt that I had to take care of it immediately and only I could do it. At that time in my life, I did not know the art of delegating. As a result I did not have enough time to enjoy other areas of my life.
As we continue to explore the Art of Estate Planning it is important to consider authorizing someone to represent or act on your behalf in your business and medical affairs should you become unable to. In legalese you are granting them Power of Attorney. This month I had the honor of interviewing Heidi Stewart of The Heidi Stewart Law Firm to help us further understand Power of Attorney and Living Wills.
When you look at the components of a Basic Estate Package, you will see that a Living Will, Healthcare POA and Durable POA are a major part of the package.
Basic Estate Package:
*For people that have children under 18 it includes a resulting trust for minors that names a guardian for the children
When granting Power of Attorney it is important to know that there are two common types: one for financial matters and one for health care decisions. The Financial Power of Attorney allows you to name someone to pay bills and handle business or property transactions for you. The Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to name someone to make health care decisions if you are unable to do so for yourself.
The Financial Power of Attorney is also called a Durable POA. Before a Durable POA can go into effect it has to be filed and recorded at the relevant County Courthouse. It will expedite the process if you choose to get the paperwork and documentation ready and then when the time comes the person you have named can take it to the courthouse to be recorded
A Health Care Power of Attorney may take effect only when a doctor determines that the principal (in this case you) is unable to make or communicate her/his medical decisions. A Financial Power of Attorney is in effect only while you, the principal, are alive and competent unless the maker is determined to be incapable of making financial decisions, or the POA states that it is “durable” and survives the incapacity of the principal (you). If the principal dies or revokes the POA, the POA is terminated.
It is important to choose someone that you TRUST to carry out your wishes. With POAs try to name three or four to prevent having to do the paperwork over and over again.
If POA has not been granted ahead of time (for both healthcare and financial situations), then the principal (you) will need to be declared incompetent by a medical professional and a guardian will have to be named. Getting guardianship granted can be an emotional experience. (Often the person being deemed incompetent is present for the proceedings taking place to declare them incompetent.) Granting POA beforehand can prevent this.
It’s a legacy that you leave your family when you take care of these things before they happen. Heidi Stewart, Esq
When someone is deemed incompetent there are three different types of Guardianship that can be awarded:
Guardian of the Estate: the Guardian deals with the financial part of the estate. It has to be someone that is bonded, with a good credit record.
Guardian of the Person: this Guardian deals with healthcare and day-to-day living for the person. Example: If mom goes into a nursing home her Guardian is responsible for getting her to her doctor appointments, hair appointments, etc.
General Guardianship: This Guardian is a Guardian of the person and their estate.
Being named a Guardian of an estate involves more paperwork and the filing of documentation at your local courthouse. When a guardian is named they are responsible for providing documentation of the estate that then becomes public record. The Guardian has to take an inventory of the estate (amount in savings, checking, investments, real estate, antiques, etc.) and file it at the courthouse.
The bottom line is that with Healthcare, Mental health and Durable POA, your private information remains private.
- There are other advantages of granting POA instead of being named Guardian. Someone that has been granted POA:
- Doesn’t have to file an annual report with the court
- Doesn’t have to be bonded
- Doesn’t have to have the emotional experience of having someone deemed mentally incompetent
- Doesn’t have to file an inventory of the estate
After deciding on POA, the next step in the process is to prepare a Living Will. A Living Will consists of written instructions that you leave in case you are diagnosed with an incurable or irreversible condition that will result in a quick death, you become unconscious with no brain activity (coma), or you have a substantial loss of cognitive ability: dementia or Alzheimer’s.
The worst thing for me as a lawyer is to be called to take care of these issues when someone is in the hospital close to death and having to gasp out their final instructions. Heidi Stewart, Esq
During our interview Heidi shared some information about a form that she uses during the process of preparing a Living Will with someone. It is called “The Five Wishes Form.”
The following excerpt has been taken from the FIVE WISHES form on the website: www.agingwithdignity.org :
Five Wishes is the first living will that talks about your personal, emotional and spiritual needs as well as your medical wishes. It lets you choose the person you want to make health care decisions for you if you are not able to make them for yourself. It also lets you say exactly how you wish to be treated if you get seriously ill. It was written with the help of The American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging, and the nation’s leading experts in end-of-life care. It’s also easy to use.
Five Wishes lets your family and doctors know:
- Who you want to make health care decisions for you when you can’t make them.
- The kind of medical treatment you want or don’t want.
- How comfortable you want to be.
- How you want people to treat you.
- What you want your loved ones to know.
Five Wishes has been featured on CNN and NBC’s Today Show and in the pages of Time and Money magazines. Newspapers have called Five Wishes the first “living will with a heart and soul.” Today, Five Wishes is available in 26 languages.
With all of the support available out there it is important to start preparing for the future and having a say in what decisions are made on your behalf. Taking some time now is essential.
Soooooo… How important is it to you that your wishes are followed if something should happen to you?
If you would like to read more about this topic, Heidi recently wrote an article called “Leave a Legacy-Part One.” Feel free to look it up on sheville.org under “Latest News.”
Lorri Gifford has been reading Tarot Cards since 1986. While living in California, she worked at The Chopra Center for Well-being as their Spa Director and a Lead Educator. In 2009 her intuition guided her to move to Asheville. Lorri enjoys writing, giving readings, coaching and helping others develop and deepen their intuition. She can be reached at www.readingswithlorri.com or 828.505.4485