A few weeks ago, HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” featured a segment about guardianship. True to form, the segment was rich with jokes and insight into the many ways court-appointed guardians can harm innocent people. The story is very well done, and we encourage you to watch it here. Just make sure you have headphones plugged in if you’re at work or are around young children, because the language gets a little salty.
The main takeaway from the segment? It’s important to choose someone you trust to help take care of you and your assets, if illness or disability makes you mentally unable to do so yourself.
In Illinois, you can name that person as your agent under a power of attorney (POA). The agent’s responsibility is to tend to your needs and act on your behalf in all legal, financial and health matters. Your agent can be an adult child, another family member or a close friend. They are, in reality, the guardian of your galaxy. So, who can you trust to be your agent under power of attorney? Consider three things:
- How well you trust them
- Their commitment to acting on your wishes
- Their understanding and knowledge of your estate plan
And speaking of estate plans… determining power of attorney is an important part of the process. Trauma like a dementia diagnosis, heart attack or stroke can strike at any time, so it’s paramount that you create an estate plan and name your agent under POA in that plan before you’re unable to do so. If you don’t have a power of attorney or the agent isn’t living up to the job, a court can appoint a guardian to manage your needs and that can lead to a host of troubles. The bottom line? If you don’t want someone you don’t know appointed as your guardian, appoint the right person now in your power of attorney.
For help establishing your own estate plan and choosing a trustworthy agent for your power of attorney, reach out to our office anytime. It’s never too soon to plan ahead.