Why do I need a durable power of attorney?

This is the time of year when people do a lot of planning. We plan for holiday gatherings, upcoming vacations and what we want to do in the next year. Many people start making financial plans now that the end of this year is right around the corner. You may even start planning a wedding after a holiday engagement.

It can also be a good time to start planning for hopefully much further into the future. While it may be uncomfortable, making plans for end-of-life care can be one of the most critical ways you can protect yourself, your wishes and the best interests of your loved ones. One way to do this is to designate a durable power of attorney.

A durable power of attorney is the person you have identified as your decision-maker when you are unable to make decisions for yourself due to mental or physical incapacity. This party will need to be prepared to make some difficult choices about your health and finances.

In terms of health care, for instance, a durable power of attorney will be given the power to approve or deny life-prolonging procedures. A financial power of attorney will have the authority to manage your finances if you can no longer do so yourself. These are critical decisions that need to be made and knowing who will be making them can give you considerable peace of mind.

Too many people assume that having a living will or other documentation that states your wishes will be enough to ensure they are carried out. However, these can be challenged, misunderstood or ignored; in some cases, no one even knows that such information exists. By having a durable power of attorney properly executed, you can be reassured that someone you know, trust and have chosen will be in a position to protect your wishes.

By not assigning power of attorney, you could be leaving some incredibly hard decisions in the hands of people who don’t know what to do or don’t want to be put in that position. Making plans for the future and assigning people to protect those plans can be a good way to save yourself and your loved ones from such a difficult situation.