Every estate plan I do in California will have two types of powers of attorney, one for health care and one for finances.
A power of attorney for health care decisions is called an “Advance Directive” and they allow you to appoint a trusted person to make medical decisions on your behalf in case either illness or injury make you unable to choose your health care options. You may be unconscious or otherwise incapacitated.
Powers of attorney for finances appoint someone else to make financial decisions or execute transactions on your behalf under certain circumstances. Those circumstances might be that you are our of the country on a vacation or work related trip or you are incapacitated. They may be limited in duration for a vacation while for incapacitation, they may last a very long time. For them to last through any incapacity, they need to be “durable”, meaning intended to last during any incapacity.
So you have done these, now what? Can you sit back and relax, knowing you are set for all time? As they say, “not so much”. Powers of attorney should be reviewed periodically. There are many reasons why you might want to consider executing new ones:
• Your wishes may have changed.
• The agents you chose to act for you may have died or otherwise become unavailable.
• You may no longer trust a person you chose.
• If you designated your spouse as your agent and you later divorce.
• If you’ve since moved to another state, your powers of attorney may no longer work the same way. Different states may have slightly different terms and procedural requirements.
• Banks and other financial institutions are uncomfortable accepting very old documents.
So what is the ‘take away’ here? Even though these are able to last for many years, you really want to stay on top of the choices you made because your views on them may have changed, or the people you chose are no longer the ones you want now. I tell every client, an estate plan is a living thing and should be treated as such. There is maintenance to do as well as periodic review.