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Why do people add durable powers of attorney to estate plans?

On Behalf of | Dec 5, 2023 | Power Of Attorney

Many adults in New Jersey understand how important an estate plan can be. The documents that they create can help to determine what legacy they leave behind when they die. Testamentary documents like wills also play an important role in providing for dependent family members, like minor children. Many people specifically focus on others when drafting an estate plan without thinking about how they could also protect themselves.

An estate plan can also help shield people from major issues if they experience incapacitating medical events later in life. Cognitive decline, comas and an assortment of other medical challenges can render someone incapable of communicating with others. These medical issues could leave them without the legal authority to make decisions about their own care. Adding durable powers of attorney to an estate plan could help some testators mitigate those risks.

What is unique about durable powers of attorney that makes them so valuable in an estate plan?

They may retain authority in more situations

Standard powers of attorney addressing medical or financial issues will lose their authority in one of two scenarios. The first is when the person who drafted the documents dies. In that situation, their testamentary documents take control over what happens next. The second is when they become permanently incapacitated. In a scenario where someone’s health or cognitive state declines to a point where they can no longer create legally-binding documents, a basic financial or medical power of attorney might lose its authority.

Durable powers of attorney are helpful in that exact situation. They retain their authority for the duration of someone’s life even if the testator experiences permanent incapacitation. Durable powers of attorney can designate authority for medical or financial matters to an agent that someone trusts. That person can continue managing someone’s affairs when they might otherwise be at risk of a guardianship.

In this way, adults in New Jersey can, therefore, better ensure that someone they trust will have control over their resources, daily life or medical choices if they become incapable of managing those matters on their own behalf. Otherwise, they would potentially be at the mercy of whoever decides to seek guardianship or conservatorship when their cognitive ability declines.