Prevent the health crisis from becoming a financial disaster
One thing you don’t want in a healthcare crisis is to find your finances in a mess once you have recovered.
A financial power of attorney gives the person you designate (your attorney) the legal authority to use your assets to take care of important money management tasks, such as paying your bills and your mortgage, filing your taxes and process transactions with your bank and brokerage. .
You can give your agent as much or as little power as you want. For example, you can allow someone to pay your mortgage and household bills for six months while you recover from an illness.
A financial power of attorney can be drawn up so that it takes effect as soon as it is signed. Many couples have an active financial power of attorney for each other in case something happens to one of them. If this is your choice, do not forget to specify that you want the power of attorney to be “lasting”, otherwise the authority will automatically end if you become incapacitated, exactly when your spouse needs it.
You can also state that you want to maintain control of your affairs until a doctor certifies that you have become unfit. This “springing” enduring power of attorney – so called because it only takes effect in certain circumstances – can be reassuring if you prefer to be entirely in control.
Remember, obtaining a certificate of incapacity can be difficult for your loved ones in an emergency, says Shirley Whitenack, estate planning lawyer in Florham Park, NJ, and former president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.