No one wants to think about or make plans for the end of life, especially if their end of life is seemingly years or even decades away. But while many aspects of estate planning handle what happens to your assets when you’re no longer around, a power of attorney (POA) protects your  well-being and interests while you’re still alive.

Once you reach the age of majority, no one can legally make decisions on your behalf regarding your finances or healthcare without your consent. Because life circumstances can change instantly, anyone considered a legal adult can benefit from having a POA in place. Otherwise, you could be putting your family in the position of making crucial decisions for you if you can no longer do so yourself.

What is a power of attorney?

A POA is a legal document that allows you to appoint an individual or organization to manage your affairs if you become sick, injured or incapacitated. The document authorizes the person you select – or the agent – to make either limited or broader decisions depending on how much power you give them. You can choose anyone to be your POA; however, it’s critical to select someone you trust with your life, such as a spouse, family member or best friend.

When you have a POA in place and become unable to act on your own behalf, your agent will then assume responsibility for financial or medical decisions to ensure your well-being and care. However, you must have already established your POA beforehand while you are still mentally sound.

What can a power of attorney do?

There are countless reasons why a person may wish to establish a POA. Depending on your specifications, you may grant your POA authority to:

  • Make financial decisions
  • Manage business interests
  • Make health or medical decisions
  • Sell or manage assets and property
  • Deal with government or retirement benefits

If life is anything, it’s unpredictable. Establishing a POA early will ensure that the right person will make decisions on your behalf no matter what comes your way.