As a Massachusetts estate planning attorney, I have learned that most people equate estate planning with wills only. We tend to focus primarily on how our assets will be distributed and on financially providing for our survivors. These are obviously essential considerations in estate planning. Equally important, however, is how our affairs will be managed if we become disabled, incapacitated, or seriously ill. Since a will takes effect only once we die, we need to have documents in place to address our finances and other personal and business affairs while still living.
A power of attorney gives another person authority to manage some, most, or all of our affairs while we are living. With a “durable” power of attorney, we can grant someone the authority to act on our behalf immediately. Some elderly people with trusted children find a durable power of attorney helpful when managing finances has become too burdensome. Another option is a “springing” power of attorney which takes effect only when one becomes disabled or incompetent. At a minimum, every adult should have a springing power of attorney to ensure that someone is able to act for them in the event of an accident or serious illness.
If you become incompetent or incapacitated and have no power of attorney, then no one can act for you, sign things for you, or otherwise manage your affairs without going to court and seeking a guardianship. The Massachusetts probate process for guardianships is very expensive and will cost your family thousands in attorney fees alone. A Massachusetts power of attorney, on the other hand, is relatively inexpensive and can be drafted to last as long as you want. Even if you do not yet feel ready to draft a will, you should at least provide your family the security of knowing that you have executed a valid power of attorney. An experienced Massachusetts estate planning attorney can draft a power of attorney tailored to your individual needs and wishes.