As you get older, you may experience physical or cognitive difficulties that make it difficult for you to care for yourself and your finances. Fortunately, estate planning allows you to choose a power of attorney to make non-healthcare decisions and healthcare agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, in the event of your incapacitation. It is important to choose a power of attorney and healthcare agent that can handle the challenges that come with managing someone else’s affairs.
Choosing a power of attorney
In New York, you can select a power of attorney to make decisions for you relating to a variety of non-healthcare matters. Your power of attorney may be responsible for:
- Managing your property
- Selling or buying real estate on your behalf
- Making investments
- Handling financial transactions
- Managing your retirement accounts
- Paying taxes on your behalf
There are different types of power of attorney available. For example, a durable power of attorney allows the person you choose as your power of attorney to start acting on your behalf at any time. Their power of attorney will continue when you are incapacitated and will last until you cancel it or pass away.
Choosing a healthcare agent
While a power of attorney typically handles your financial and legal matters, a healthcare agent is strictly focused on your healthcare. The person you select as your healthcare agent can be the same person you chose to be your power of attorney, or you can choose two different people.
As your healthcare agent, the person acting on your behalf, will be able to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, if you are incapacitated. The healthcare agent may act on your behalf by:
- Accepting or refusing medical care
- Accepting or refusing life-support
- Selecting appropriate course of treatment
- Deciding whether to enter hospice facility or nursing home
- Applying for Medicare, Medicaid or insurance benefits
- Advocating for medical rights
Making informed choices
An elder law attorney in your area can help you select the right people to handle your medical and financial matters, if necessary. Other than a couple of exceptions, you are legally allowed to choose any competent adult, age 18 or older, to serve as your power of attorney or health care agent. Many New Yorkers choose a close friend or family member, while others choose an attorney or other professional. All that matters is that the person you choose is able and willing to carry out your wishes and advocate on your behalf.