Durable Powers of Attorney and Health Care Proxies nominate someone to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself.
Each year, many individuals lose the legal capacity to make their own decisions, usually as the result of an injury or a medical condition, often related to old-age. This scenario is truly sad, but the lack of proper estate planning can worsen the effect.
Without a Durable Power of Attorney or Health Care Proxy in place, someone will have to petition the Probate Court to appoint a Guardian or Conservator for the incapacitated person. This involves a lengthy, demanding, and expensive court process, which could have been easily avoided if person had a validly executed Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy.
A Durable Power of Attorney nominates an individual to make financial decisions on your behalf. It is "durable"because it remains in effect even if you become incapacitated. Therefore, instead of petitioning for Conservatorship, your attorney-in-fact can provide the Durable Power of Attorney to any financial institution that you use, and ensure a seamless management of your financial activities. This is especially important for those who are responsible for the finances of their spouse and children, as well as their own.
Similarly, a Health Care Proxy nominates an individual to make health-care related decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. It allows for your immediate medical treatment, and avoids petitioning for a legal Guardianship.
Because a Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy protect you during your lifetime, they are perhaps just as important as a Will and Revocable Trust, and should be part of any estate plan.