Almost everyone thinks they are too young to worry about losing their capacity to make decisions or to pass away.
In fact, recently, I conferenced with several people in their late 90s who remain fully able to make their own decisions. One of them told me that she did not need to empower anyone else to help her make decisions because she is “still able to tell people what I want.”
A young couple in their mid-50s conferenced with me on a Saturday afternoon a couple weeks ago. In that meeting, they also told me that they were too young to worry about “end of life things.”
A year ago, a 22-year-old who recently graduated from college asked me to organize an LLC for him. However, he said he did not need any other legal documents because he was “not married and doesn’t have kids.”
Regardless of age, marital status, parental status or health, certain key documents are an essential component of each adult’s moral responsibility to family and friends.
Further, by the time that someone realizes (or by the time that someone’s family realizes) that the person cannot make his or her own decisions, it is often too late. Here is why. If a person is not legally competent to make a certain decision, that person is also not legally competent to empower someone else (a family member or friend) to make that certain decision.
In my opinion, there are three documents that every adult person needs to have in place. The New Year is as good a time as any to resolve to prepare those three documents. The three, key documents can bring peace of mind to the affected person. However, the documents are really a gift to family and friends, who will ultimately be responsible for the person’s well-being.
The first necessary document for every adult is a general power of attorney, often called a financial power of attorney. That document can be written to be effective immediately or at some point in the future, such as when a person is no longer able to make decisions on his or her own.
The second document is a healthcare power of attorney. Obviously, this document empowers another person to make healthcare decisions. This document can also be written to take effect immediately or later.
If a person loses the capacity to make decisions without these two powers of attorney in place, that person’s family may need to file an actual lawsuit to become a guardian over the person, costing precious time and lots of money when neither time nor money may be readily available.
Finally, I always promise clients that they will someday pass away. Therefore, every adult needs a will, even if the person owns virtually nothing.
In the New Year, our resolutions may include health, happiness or better self-discipline. Each of us should also resolve in 2016 to secure a general power of attorney, a healthcare power of attorney and a will.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-523-5523. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.