If I could make one thing happen, my wish would be for all Americans to have a ritual of putting into place powers of attorney when they legally become an adult. If we had the understanding that should something happen to us whether we are 18 or 80, these documents will allow someone to help.
My son received these for his 18th birthday. Initially, I was most worried about being able to talk to a doctor if he got hurt. As an athlete I knew he would be traveling with his team and wanted to make sure I could get answers from the doctor if he got injured on his travels.
However, what scared me more was how could we help if something happened to him after college and he was living on his own. I’ve come across families that had to step in to help their adult children and were totally unprepared and unable to help.
If this was just a standard rite of entering adulthood, I think we would all have better habits of managing our lives and information so that someone could help us if we needed it. We also wouldn’t make getting these things in place something you do when you get older since every adult should have these.
I’m frustrated that most American’s equate creating an Estate Plan with end of life wishes. A good Estate Plan includes both financial and medical powers of attorney, beneficiary designations, end of life wishes, a Will and maybe a Trust. When I work with families most of them believe they are all set because they have done their estate plans. When I ask them who is the power of attorney and if they have a copy of the document, I’m never surprised when “no” is the answer. These also aren’t once and done tools. You will need to update them over your lifetime.
For those of you caring for a loved one already, you know how precious, valuable, and necessary the power of attorney is. If you don’t have these documents, please know that someone diagnosed with dementia may still have decisional capacity. Ask their doctor to validate this and get these documents into place.
Your plans won’t help you if the people that would step in to help don’t know about them or where they are. So I hope you will make it a habit to confirm and check in with those you have named as power of attorney annually. Hoped.