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Important to establish powers of attorney prior to incapacity

Illness and incapacity take many families by surprise. A loved one may be rational and coherent one month, but his or her health declines rapidly the next, rendering the loved one unable to make important decisions related to finances and health care.

Because incapacitating health problems can happen so quickly, it is important to establish power of attorney before a loved one becomes ill.

Without power of attorney for property, the child of an incapacitated individual may encounter serious obstacles in trying to ensure that the parent's bills are paid and finances properly managed.

Likewise, power of attorney for personal care should be established to appoint a trusted person to make decisions related to health care and living arrangements on behalf of the incapacitated loved one.

Banks, utility companies and other businesses tend to be reluctant to let someone other than the account holder make decisions or transactions with regard to the account. However, an individual who has been granted power of attorney can take care of these matters in the event that the account holder cannot.

If power of attorney is not established prior to an incapacitating illness or injury, it may be necessary for the family to establish guardianship. For more on guardianship and powers of attorney, please see our previous post, "Power of attorney and guardianship: 2 ways to protect a vulnerable loved one."

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