Before snowbirds begin their seasonal journey to warmer climates, it’s time to be sure that they have the important legal documents in place, advises LimaOhio.com in a recent article “Different seasons and documents, same peace of mind.” The two documents are a health care proxy and a financial power of attorney, and they should be prepared and be ready to be used at any time.
These documents name another person to make healthcare and financial decisions in case you are not able to make those decisions for yourself. We never think that anything will really happen to us, until it does. Having these documents properly prepared and easily accessible helps our loved ones. They are the ones who will need the powers given by the documents. Without them, they cannot act in a timely manner.
If traveling between a home state and a winter home, it is wise to have a set of documents that align with the laws of both states. It may be necessary to have a separate set of documents for each state, if the laws differ.
Financial powers of attorney typically need updating more often than health care proxies or healthcare powers of attorney. The law has changed in recent years, and there are a number of specific powers that need to be stated precisely, so that the document can grant those powers. This includes the power to gift assets and make a person eligible for nursing home and other healthcare assistance, like Medicaid.
If these documents are not in place and are needed, the only way that someone else can make decisions for the person is to become a legal guardian of that person. That includes spouses. Many people think that the fact that two people are married gives them every right, but that is not the case. Guardianship takes considerably more time and costs more than these two documents. It should be noted that once a legal guardianship is established, the person who is the guardian will need to report to the court on a regular basis.
As part of a health care proxy, you should prepare your loved ones to make crucial life and death decisions for you that fit with your preferences as to end-of-life care. A document can be created in the form of advance directives or a living will, but be sure to have the difficult conversation with your health care agent and back up agents in person so they truly understand your end of life wishes and hopefully, can fulfill those wishes if and when a the time comes.
Peace of mind is a wonderful thing to take with you as you prepare for a warm winter in a different climate. Talk with an estate planning attorney to be sure that your estate planning documents will be acceptable in your winter home.
Reference: LimaOhio.com (Oct. 26, 2019) “Different seasons and documents, same peace of mind”