Including a guardian in your estate plan

When planning for the future, there are many different scenarios to consider. One important piece of any estate plan is your wishes if you were to become incapacitated or unable to make decisions for yourself any longer. Your will can state your wishes on some of these matters, but you can also appoint a guardian to make medical or financial decisions for you.

Executing a power of attorney

A power of attorney is a document that allows you to appoint a guardian for yourself in the case that you become unable to make decisions for yourself. A health care power of attorney would appoint someone to make your medical decisions or take care of your medical needs while you are incapacitated.

You can also appoint someone to overlook your financial matters through a durable power of attorney. They would manage your bank accounts and make necessary payments, as well as purchase day-to-day necessities like food and clothing for you.

If you do not appoint a guardian for yourself, court may choose one for you if the need ever arises. They may choose your spouse, parents or other family members. The process of choosing a guardian costs money and court may not choose the person you would like to care for you, so it is in your best interest to plan ahead.

How to choose a guardian

Being a guardian is a big responsibility. You are essentially placing your whole well-being into someone else’s hands. Here are the questions you need to evaluate when deciding who to choose:

  • Do you wholeheartedly trust them? Are they a reliable person?
  • Do they know you well? Do they fully understand your wishes?
  • How close do they live?
  • Are they likely to outlive you?
  • Would they defend you against other family members? Conflict does happen in these situations and other people may want different things for you.
  • If you have separate guardians for medical and financial matters, would there be conflict between these people?

Though the thought of becoming incapacitated is not pleasant, a power of attorney can be a very important part of an estate plan. It can also give some peace of mind to your family. It’s true that conflicts of interest arise in these scenarios, but stating and protecting your wishes is much better than letting the family try to work it out and make guesses about what you would want.

If you are planning your estate, an attorney can talk over these options with you and help you set up a will and power of attorney that protects your interests.