Determining Financial and Medical Powers of Attorney: An Essential Part of a Solid Estate Plan

You probably wouldn’t just sign a blank check and give it to your child and say, “Manage my financial affairs for me.”  But that is exactly what happens every day across Virginia as individuals without an estate plan have courts appoint a conservator over an incapacitated adult.  They either were the victim of old age, illness, and catastrophic injury.  Whatever the reason, they could no longer speak for themselves regarding their financial lives.  Without a financial power of attorney established, your loved ones will have to go through a long, expensive court process to establish a conservator.


Then that conservator simply has a blank check to manage your financial life!  It’s true.  No rules.


At Smith Strong, PLC, we advocate for estate planning to be not mere documents, but planning that provides a rulebook for your financial affairs when you are no longer able to speak for yourself.


Strokes, dementia, illness can strike in a moment.  Do not compound the problem without a suitable plan to deal with that transition.  Create an estate plan that incorporates a financial power of attorney that is not just a few pages with names of family members, but is a rulebook for them to serve without stress or error.


The other common response we hear when giving seminars is “Oh, medical agent?  Yeah, I’ve got that.  I signed a two page form naming my eldest daughter when I was in the hospital a few years ago.”


Then we review that “Medical Power of Attorney.”  It’s two pages.  And all it does is protect the hospital from liability.  Oh, and name the daughter as the decider on when to end artificial life support.


This is an example of the terms on the page being the same, but the effect very different.  In other words they had a document—but no planning!


We don’t want to give a “blank check” with no rulebook to your healthcare agent either.


We want them to be confident in their role.  Knowing they are following your specific instructions.  Not only for end of life care, but also, potentially, the years of life that may occur where you are unable to fully understand or speak for yourself.


If you don’t design this medical agency in your estate plan, your family will have to hire an attorney to go through a guardianship hearing, with its delay, court fees, and anxiety simply to be appointed.  Then, just like the conservatorship hearing the outcome is the same—an agent with no rulebook—a blank check.


Estate planning is also about life planning. 


Your parents didn’t have this problem.  Likely your father retired and lived a few short years before passing away rather suddenly.


Your generation is different—you’re living far longer than your parents.


We must plan for these elder years—so you have dignity, and your caregivers are confident in the plan you’ve outlined for them.


Don’t delay, call us at 804.325.1245 or 757.941.4298 to schedule your first meeting or attend our free estate-planning seminar today.


View our Power of Attorney Article Library

H. Van Smith
Connect with me
Trusted Virginia Family Law Attorney Serving Richmond to Williamsburg