Power of Attorney: When is the Right Time to Appoint an Attorney In Fact?

The simplest answer to that question is “right now.” We sometimes don’t like facing certain things because of the consequences we might face. Like the man who refuses to go to the doctor because he is afraid the doctor will tell him he has high cholesterol and will want him to change his diet. So he refuses. Later he dies of a massive heart attack. Or the person who does not want to know what those unopened bank statements say. And they lose their house and their car in bankruptcy.

Not addressing an issue rarely makes the consequences go away. In fact, not facing our issues, whether they are problems or opportunities, usually creates more trouble, not less.

Appointing an attorney in fact can be the same as the earlier examples. Many of the times that the power of attorney comes into play, there is an emergency which precipitates the need for an attorney-in-fact to act. For example, a person is in a car accident and their life is not threatened, but they are seriously injured, such that they are in the hospital for weeks with an outlook of long-term rehabilitation. Who takes care of the day-to-day responsibilities? Who feeds the dog? Who insures that the light bill is paid? Who makes sure that all the routine responsibilities are managed? This is no time to appoint an attorney in fact. The power of attorney document needed to be in place ahead of time.

When medical needs arise, physicians are trained to care for the patient, not the patient’s checkbook or daily chore list. And that is as it should be. Who takes care of these issues?

Some of you reading this are saying, “Well, my family will step into help.” For many of us this is true, but only to a point. Your family’s best intentions will not get around HIPPA requirements. They may want to help, but the law may prevent them from doing so. A properly drafted power of attorney as well a medical power of attorney is all that is necessary.

So when is the proper time to act? Today. Take the time to discuss the power of attorney document with your attorney. He or she will help you decide who is the best choice for you. Each state has its own unique laws, but most are very similar. The key issue is, do it. Do it today.

I welcome your comments and your power of attorney abuse stories. Thank you to all who have contacted us after reading our blog.