Surprising to some, a large part of estate planning involves, not what you leave behind, but your life, as it’s happening now! Just think… if something happened on your way home today or you develop dementia… and you couldn’t access your bank account or pay your bills, who could do that for you? If you don’t have a Financial Power of Attorney in place, your spouse or child may need to go to Probate Court to get authority to handle your finances on your behalf.
As estate planning attorneys, we understand your needs and will guide you through a process that can seem overwhelming. We listen and learn about your fears and hopes. By understand what really matters to you, we make a plan that ensures your legacy is protected.
Our comprehensive estate plans include not only a Will or a Trust, but also an Advance Directive for Health Care, HIPAA Authorization, and Financial Power of Attorney. We call these last three, “living documents”, and they are pivotal for all of us while – you guessed it – we are alive.
So, why do we need these living documents? An Advance Directive for Health Care is a legal document that allows you to choose someone you trust to make medical decisions for you if you can’t. It also allows you to leave directions regarding end-of-life care. A HIPAA authorization allows a trusted person to access your medical records, if needed. These two documents, by their very nature, go hand-in-hand and can be undeniably important at any moment.
A Financial Power of Attorney is another tool that allows you to choose a trusted person to make financial decisions on your behalf and to manage your finances and other assets (like managing your mortgage payment, utilities, and selling a car you no longer need). Who would need this?
Simply “being married” does not authorize your spouse to handle your finances and assets or make financial decisions for you. A Financial Power of Attorney gives your spouse the necessary authority to make financial decisions on your behalf. If you don’t have this vital legal document, you may find out too late that you can’t take care of your loved one.
If you are single, it’s important to have someone you trust to be able to handle your finances and valued assets if you become incapacitated. Planning is key to making sure your wishes are followed no matter what.
As you get older, it’s easy to feel that you are losing a bit of control. Having a Financial Power of Attorney allows you to choose who can make financial decisions on your behalf, when you find you no longer can. Also, in Georgia, you’ll find that a Power of Attorney has a major influence on who is assigned as a conservator/guardian if you are no longer able to care for yourself and facing wardship whether voluntarily or not.
When you turn 18, you are officially an adult. This means your parents are (legally) no longer responsible for your health care and finances. You are on your own in the eyes of the law, but what if you need some help? You start by assigning someone you trust, like a parent, as an agent in your Financial Power of Attorney and Health Care Directive. This allows them to have access and assist you, if needed.
The good thing about living documents is that they are meant to work in your favor. They are not set in stone and can be changed, while you are capable, at any time, for whatever reason.
You can also set parameters to make sure the access allowed is under specific circumstances and for limited times.
Ultimately, if you plan ahead, you will find that when it comes down to it, you are in the driver’s seat, setting the course!
– Stephanie L. Steele
Contact us at 770.693.2426 to learn more about
Financial Power of Attorney & other Estate Planning documents.
You can learn more by reviewing the estate planning section of our website at:
You can also visit: The American Bar Association.