I am absolutely amazed at the number of people that ask this question. It’s as if we think that by not preparing for accidents then accidents won’t happen. This convoluted thinking creates many a hardship for families.

Ask anyone who has had a traumatic car accident or a stroke or massive heart attack if they expected it to happen. I have never personally heard anyone say they did yet we all live as if it couldn’t happen to us.

Both a healthcare power of attorney and a financial power of attorney are essential documents to have prepared in the event of a catastrophic illness or accident, especially if you are single, divorced or in the process of a divorce.

No one will take your partner, significant other, or friend’s word for it that they are supposed to handle your affairs. Banks and doctors like to see proof before acting on decisions made for someone by another.

If this is done after the fact, after you are incapacitated and unable to verbalize your wishes it can take from days to weeks or months. If it is done as an emergency hearing with the courts it requires proof of who you are and why you should be making these decisions and other family members can contest it. Do you really want to put your loved ones through that and do you really want to lay in a hospital bed allowing the doctors to make those decisions for you while family is trying to be granted that option?

For healthcare issues this power of attorney is necessary so that the decisions made are by someone who knows what you want. This is especially important if you have strong feeling about being maintained on a ventilator (machine) to keep you alive. Without someone available to inform the doctors what your wishes are the doctors are compelled to do everything.

If there are situations where you would need special care, or a specialist that is not covered by insurance it is essential that someone be able to get you that help. If no one has access to your funds you may not be able to get that care or it may be significantly delayed until someone can get that authority.

By giving someone a power of attorney for healthcare or finances you stipulate that it is only in the event that you are unable to speak for yourself that the power is executed. No one has power of your healthcare or finances while you are alive and capable to make decisions for yourself.

How many of us have enough available cash to pay for a funeral? Most funerals cost upwards of $20,000.00 when you take into account the casket, grave site, flowers, dinner and funeral home. Who have you given authority to for these things? Can they afford to pay out of their own pocket?

I could go on forever giving you examples of what can happen, what has happened and what should happen verses what does happen when people have not properly prepared for these types of events.

I was very lucky that my parents not only had these two forms in place but that they also had a living will and advanced directives all filled out. My sisters and I never had to argue about what we thought they wanted instead they had it written out and shared that information with us. I consider this as their greatest gift to us. Making life and death decisions for someone else is traumatic.

You cannot imagine how many fights I have witnessed because family members do not agree about things that need to be done for their loved one. Everyone thinks they know what the person would have wanted but the truth is everyone is just guessing without proper documentation. Legal documents stop all the second guessing and alleviates guilt that is associated with having to make decisions on some ones else’s behave.

For those of us that like to make our own decisions it is a no brainer to make decisions now about what could happen later. I don’t choose for someone else to do it for me.

The money I have accumulated I want to go to taking care of me if I am unable to do so myself. I do not wish for my family to use it while I am cared for in a substandard nursing home or facility just because it is cheaper than the four or five star facility up the road.

Not doing this does not assure that an accident won’t happen, it only assures that if it does happen someone else is going to get stuck making choices for you. It is also a toss of the coin they will make the decisions you would have.  The fact is that we are all going to need someone to do these things for us at some point unless you are lucky enough to avoid all accidents and you die in your sleep. It actually is irresponsible to expect someone else to make your decisions and handle your affairs.

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