Power of Attorney papers

The Importance of a Power of Attorney

William D. Stilley, Esq. Jan. 19, 2021

You are Not Invincible

Being young can give one a sense of invincibility. You see stories of people being incapacitated in car wrecks, or by COVID or other illnesses, and you think that won’t happen to you. But the truth is, disaster can strike anyone at any time. That is why it is important to have contingency plans in place. Something that not everyone knows, though they should, is that once someone turns 18, no one is allowed to make healthcare or financial decisions on their behalf should they become impaired or debilitated. This is why it is important for everyone to designate a trusted individual as their Healthcare and Financial Agent to act for them.

A Healthcare Power of Attorney (Healthcare DPA) is a document that appoints an individual as someone’s agent to act on their behalf for healthcare decisions. Without this document, in the case of incapacitation, no one can request, or stop, certain healthcare decisions. If someone is in a catastrophic car wreck and is in a coma, without a Healthcare DPA in place, not even their parents have the authority to dictate what should happen to the incapacitated individual. One famous example of this is the case of Terri Schiavo. In 1990 at the age of 26, Schiavo went into cardiac arrest and suffered massive brain damage due to lack of oxygen to her brain. She was declared to be in a persistent vegetative state. She did not have a power of attorney in place. In 1998, her husband asked her doctors to remove her from her feeding tube. He argued that Terri would not have wanted to remain in a vegetative state with no quality of life. Terri’s parents argued before the court that he had no power to do this, claiming she still had consciousness. The case went to the Florida Supreme Court and was very high profile. Eventually the court ruled that the feeding tube could be removed and Terri eventually died. If Terri had had a Healthcare Power of Attorney in place, none of the political and legal drama would have been necessary.

In much the same fashion as in healthcare, a Financial Power of Attorney is necessary as well. Without a Financial DPA in place, no one can make monetary decisions for an incapacitated individual. If someone has a car with a loan on it, not even their parents would be able to contact the lender to know how much is owed on the car. Bills cannot be paid, bank transactions cannot be made, etc. This is why it is also important to have a Financial DPA in place. Say for example, someone is in a bad snowboarding accident and they are in the hospital in a medically induced coma. Without someone able to handle their financial affairs, their car could be repossessed, their apartment rent couldn’t be paid, and they couldn’t pay their medical bills or deal with their health insurance. This would be catastrophic for the individual if they were to recover.

A third document that young people need to know about, but rarely do, is a living will. A living will, also known as Advanced Directives, is similar to a Healthcare DPA in that it dictates what can happen in the case of a medical emergency. But instead of designating someone to make decisions, it lays out what decisions the individual wants to be made. If someone does not wish to be kept on life support in the event that they are injured or sick beyond the point of recovery, a living will can determine that decision. Conversely, if they want to be kept on life support, it can lay that out as well. It can also authorize other healthcare procedures such as MRI’s, CT scans, blood tests, organ donation, etc.

It is important that everyone has these documents in place, and Stilley Law Office, LLC can help. We offer affordable and fair legal services that will help draft these documents for you and offer you sound legal advice. Call us today at 816-325-3713 or visit our website to set up an appointment. Don’t wait for disaster to strike, let us help you now!