ESTATE PLANNING 101: Healthcare Power of Attorney

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ESTATE PLANNING 101: Who should be my healthcare power of attorney and why?

Part of the process of creating an estate plan for my clients is the selection of people to carry out the plan itself.  With a will that person is called a personal representative in Missouri (AKA the executor), for a trust that person is a trustee(s) and for powers of attorney, that person is referred to as an attorney-in-fact or an agent.

In the course of selecting the agents for powers of attorney, my job is to counsel clients as to selecting the right primary agent and then successor / alternate agents.  For a married couple, the first choice is easy.  It’s almost always going to be the other spouse.  For a single person, the first choice of agent should be:  1.  someone they trust; 2.  someone who is preferably their age or, better, younger than them;  3.  someone who is willing to act and knows that they will be selected in this role;  and 4.  someone who is geographically close (in an emergency an agent in Hawaii might not be the best selection).

For most people this is usually a child or, if they would like, two or more children to act as co-agents.  A family friend, a significant other or a neighbor can also serve as primary or alternate agents.

Every client has a different circumstance.  In some cases, a child may not be a good choice because they support a different medicinal philosophy (for example, you are a traditional person when it comes to medical care, your son believers in alternative medicine, which you disagree with.

The bottomline, as with all aspects of estate planning, is to pick a person or people that give you peace of mind.  Afterall, as your agent, if you become disabled or incapacitated, they step in your shoes and make decisions for you that could have life and death consequences.