I have always enjoyed puzzles. I remember working on one when I was about 11 or 12. It was a black cat against a black background. The only colors were in the cat’s eyes and whiskers. That puzzle took a while to complete.
Have you ever worked on a puzzle where you are almost done and realize you are missing the last few pieces? How frustrating is that! Estate planning is like a puzzle to me. And trust me, if your plan is missing pieces your family will be frustrated.
Healthcare, Mental Healthcare, and Financial Powers of Attorney (POA) are important pieces in your estate planning puzzle. A POA is a document that allows your chosen agent to help you while you are alive. Here are a few examples of how these important documents could be used.
- Several years ago, a wife wanted to sell the family car before the end of the year to take advantage of a cash-for-clunkers tax break. The problem was her husband was on title to the vehicle and he was overseas working. When you are in another country, the only way to get a document notarized is to make an appointment with either the US Embassy or Consulate. These appointments can sometimes take 4-8 weeks to schedule. She had to wait weeks before getting her husband’s notarized signature back on the car title. If she had been POA for her husband, she could have signed the document immediately on his behalf and sold the car.
- A client’s daughter went overseas as part of a college-abroad program. Unfortunately, her daughter’s purse including her phone and wallet were stolen in Spain. Because daughter had made her mom her POA before she travelled, mom was able to contact daughter’s credit card companies, banks, phone company, and credit reporting agencies on her daughter’s behalf to notify them of the theft.
- A 93-year old client came to our office to sign the POA we had created for her. Her health was declining and she expressed concern that she would not be able to attend the meeting she had in a few days with the title company for her house closing process. I told her not to worry. “Send your daughter to the meeting instead! You just made her your POA.”
- My mom wasn’t feeling well several years ago during our family vacation in Colorado. My brother-in-law drove her to the emergency room. Several hours later she went in cardiogenic shock and had to be life-flighted to another hospital. Mom stayed in the hospital for 17 days, mostly in and out of consciousness in the ICU. During that time, my family relied on her POA to make medical decisions for her.
Make sure you have all the pieces to your estate plan before your family needs to put the puzzle together.