A good estate plan includes several legal documents. Many people know it is important to have a Will to designate who will receive the property in the estate when they die. However, there are several other important documents that are useful for handling a person’s affairs, particularly as they become elderly.

In this article, we will discuss the types of Powers of Attorney available in Texas. A probate attorney – such as Austin probate lawyer Farren Sheehan – can help with putting together a complete estate plan, including a Will and Powers of Attorney.

The Importance of Powers of Attorney

It happens all too frequently: an elderly loved one becomes seriously ill and, nearing the end of life, becomes incapacitated. The loved one can no longer make decisions for himself. In addition, other factors complicating end of life decisions can abound, including the patient’s age, the nature of the illness, the ability of medicine to sustain life, and the emotions families endure when their loved ones are sick and possibly dying. During this time, issues often arise about medical care and financial transactions.

Statistics show that over 80 percent of older adults recognize the importance of planning ahead and having in place a plan for healthcare decisions, who makes them, and what decisions will be made, in the event they can’t do so themselves. Yet only a third has actually implemented such a plan: that is, signed an advance healthcare directive or done anything more than just had a brief conversation with a loved one (“I don’t want to be hooked up to a machine!”).

Without such documents, families are left to piece together what the decisions would be regarding healthcare choices if the person is unable to make them himself. Financial matters may not get handled quickly, and family members may need to seek a guardianship in court to be able to make decisions for the incapacitated individual. Guardianship proceedings can be very expensive, time-consuming, and stressful for family members. Having Powers of Attorney in place avoids costly court intervention and ensures that the people making decisions are trusted agents and will act according to the person’s wishes.

Types of Powers of Attorney

Powers of Attorney are written legal documents made by a competent adult that designate an agent or surrogate to act on a person’s behalf if he becomes unable to make decisions for himself. Two important documents all adults should make and keep are:

  1. Statutory Durable Power of Attorney: A Statutory Durable Power of Attorney allows the person to appoint an agent to manage his financial affairs and make financial decisions concerning management of property if he becomes too incapacitated to make such decisions himself. The agent must act according to the terms and limitations provided in the Power of Attorney.
  2. Medical Power of Attorney: A Medical Power of Attorney or Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is also known as a health care proxy. This document allows the patient to designate a surrogate, a person who will make health care treatment decisions for the patient if the patient becomes too incapacitated to make such decisions.

Attorneys familiar with probate and elder care issues can help individuals and families with these important documents. Having discussed the issues with family members and prepared written documents expressing one’s wishes helps ease the burden on family when the time comes, and ensures that an individual’s wishes are met.

The Powers of Attorney can be as broad or limited as the person wishes. A probate attorney will make sure that the language used effectively meets the person’s wishes and specific needs. The attorney will ensure that the documents are executed properly so that guardianship proceedings are not necessary to make decisions for the person, if he becomes incapacitated.

Sheehan Law, PLLC | Austin, TX Estate Planning Attorneys

It is advisable to hire an attorney to help draft Powers of Attorney so that the person has control over who will make decisions, and ensure that his wishes will be met in the event he cannot speak for himself. If you have questions about powers of attorney, please contact Austin probate attorney Farren Smith for a consultation.