By: Thomas M. Shorb, Esq., Chair of the Estate Practice Group at Stock and Leader, and member of Hospice & Community Care’s Planned Giving Council
Often in the journey of life there are twists and turns, whether we expect them or not. There are accidents, issues with our health, or the inevitable Father Time can diminish our mental and physical capabilities as we age. If you are unable to handle your personal affairs, who would you want to fill your shoes? This is the reason it is essential to have in place an Agent under a Power of Attorney (POA) and an Executor under your Will.
A POA document can negate the expense, time and emotional drain of a guardianship proceeding before a Court, and allow you to designate someone as your Agent to handle your affairs if you are no longer capable of doing so.
There are two primary roles an Agent can fulfill – financial and healthcare.
Relative to your finances, your Agent can be given the ability to pay bills, sell real estate and handle other financial matters for you.
Under a Health Care POA/Living Will, your Agent can receive the authority to make healthcare decisions for you, such as the ability to admit you to a medical facility and authorize medical and surgical procedures. The Living Will portion of that document, on the other hand, is only effective when you are either in an “end-stage medical condition” or “permanently unconscious.” It provides the benefit of making your own wishes known while you are capable of expressing them, and additionally relieves your family or others from the burden of guessing your wishes.
At death, your Agent’s authority under your POA is revoked, and the Executor under your Will takes over.
Under your Will, you want to appoint someone to carry out your last wishes. Those responsibilities include locating and probating the original Will, assembling your assets, paying creditors, filing tax returns, completing an accounting as to the administration of your Estate, and making the distributions to the beneficiaries of your Estate.
What is most important as to your appointment of both an Agent and an Executor is for you to have confidence in the character and integrity of the person or persons you name. Those individuals perform vital functions in handling your affairs, when the need may arise.