In the realm of legal matters, there is an important step that every individual — and especially seniors and vulnerable individuals — should take. To protect yourself and your family in the event of contingencies that may arise in the coming weeks and months, your coronavirus (COVID-19) checklist should include making sure that you have in place durable powers of attorney for health care and finances. In some situations, a living trust can provide even better protection than a durable financial power of attorney.
Our BRMM attorneys provide additional information on durable powers of attorney and their role in addressing coronavirus concerns in our discussion below. But first, here are two things to remember in the days ahead:
Takeaway #1: Add Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care and Finances to Your Coronavirus Checklist
As you prepare everything you need for the coming weeks, add another task to your checklist — make certain that you have durable powers of attorney in place.
If you have an estate plan, locate it and find your durable powers of attorney for health care and finances. Review them and make certain that they are up to date. If you don’t have durable powers of attorney, call an attorney and put them in place now.
Takeaway #2: BRMM Is Here to Help, in Any Way We Can
Our BRMM attorneys are here and available to help, if you need assistance with durable powers of attorney, a living trust, or any other legal matter. We are leveraging technology and all other available resources to address the needs of existing and new clients, while following the coronavirus (COVID-19) guidelines. Our options include using FaceTime and telephone conferences for client meetings. If we can assist you or a family member, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The risks associated with coronavirus (COVID-19) include the possibility of temporary or permanent incapacity. If you become incapacitated — even temporarily — and do not have durable powers of attorney in place, no one can legally make health care and financial decisions for you. Even spouses cannot make health care decisions for each other.
If you have durable powers of attorney for health care and financial matters in place, your advocate and attorney-in-fact will be able to make health care decisions on your behalf and tend to your daily financial affairs while you are incapacitated by the coronavirus (or any other cause).
In the absence of durable powers of attorney, the only way for a family member to get legal authority to act on your behalf in health care or financial matters is to petition the probate court for appointment as your guardian and conservator. A court proceeding results in unnecessary time delays and costs, which is not a satisfactory solution in a family emergency.
In a durable power of attorney for health care — also called a patient advocate designation — you authorize a named individual to be your advocate and make health care decisions for you, if you become physically or mentally incapacitated temporarily or permanently. In addition to appointing a patient advocate to act on your behalf, your health care DPOA includes an advance directive stating your wishes concerning medical treatment and end-of-life care.
In a durable financial power of attorney, you (the principal) designate a person or financial institution as your attorney-in-fact (or agent) to manage your financial matters if you become incapacitated. Your attorney-in-fact has only the powers that you specifically grant in the document.
In some situations, a revocable living trust provides even better protection than a durable financial power of attorney.
Although Michigan has specific state laws governing durable powers of attorney for health care and for financial matters, the state does not have standardized DPOA forms. To ensure the validity of your DPOAs, you should never use a do-it-yourself (DIY) service or form. When an attorney prepares the documents for you, your DPOAs take your individual situation and wishes into account. Your lawyer also ensures that the documents are legally valid under applicable Michigan laws.
If you have an out-of-state durable power of attorney, it may be (or may not be) valid in Michigan. But even if it is valid, your agent or advocate may encounter difficulty getting it honored in Michigan. You should ask a Michigan lawyer to create new durable powers of attorney that conform with specific Michigan requirements, to avoid any potential problems with out-of-state documents.
If you don’t have durable powers of attorney for health care and finances, you should contact an attorney at your earliest convenience. Putting those documents in place does not involve a complicated process in most cases.
A living trust also provides financial management of your assets owned by the trust. In fact, trusts often provide a superior approach to financial DPOAs. Additional information about living trusts is available in these blog articles: The Power of a Living Trust: Top 7 Reasons Why You Need One; The Basics of Life and Estate Planning; Are Revocable Living Trusts Only for Rich People?
Our BRMM lawyers are here to help with durable powers of attorney, living trusts, and any other legal matters you and your family face. Telephone conferences and FaceTime for video and audio consultations are available options that avoid the need for in-person meetings.
BRMM attorneys provide a full range of services relating to estate planning and elder law. We’ve been serving clients in Oakland County and beyond for more than 40 years. Our clients count on our commitment, experience, and credentials when they turn to us for their legal needs.
Call us today at (248) 494-4577 or use our online form to talk with our experienced attorneys.