VanNess & VanNess, P.A.

The importance of powers of attorney

Even youthful and healthy Florida residents can be left incapacitated following a workplace or automobile accident. Powers of attorneys designate trusted individuals to make important medical or financial decisions in these situations, and having these documents in place can prevent loved ones from having to deal with unnecessary legal obstacles during a time of great emotional stress. When incapacitated individuals have not taken this step, the person who wishes to make important decisions on their behalf must file a guardianship petition in court. This can be a costly and time-consuming process, and there is no guarantee that the decisions made by the petitioner will reflect the wishes of the incapacitated individual.

Medical powers of attorney authorize trusted individuals to make important health care decisions. When these documents are not in place, these decisions will generally be left to an incapacitated person's spouse or next of kin. This could create problems if the spouse concerned is unable or unwilling to make decisions or the individual's next of kin has unconventional views about medical treatment. A medical power of attorney could also spare loved ones from having to make painful decisions by clearly stating at what point medical treatment should cease.

Financial powers of attorney can be even more important as even spouses lack the legal authority to withdraw funds from individual retirement accounts or sell jointly-owned deeded assets. This can lead to bills going unpaid and loved ones being left to cope with serious financial difficulties.

Attorneys with a background in estate planning may urge their clients to draft financial and medical powers of attorney even if they are young and enjoy robust good health. Attorneys could also urge their younger clients not to put off other important estate planning steps such as drafting a will.

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