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Anyone 18 or older should have a general power of attorney

Country Counsel: Ensure your personal and business affairs continue during any period of incapacity.

December 27, 2023

2 Min Read
A close up of a lawyer stamping a document with a notary seal
POWER OF ATTORNEY: Power-of-attorney documents bridge the gap between your incapacity and your passing. IuriiSokolov/Getty Images

by Evin Bachelor

Are you and your farm prepared if you become disabled or unable to manage your affairs? Your general or financial power of attorney and health care power of attorney are incredibly important documents to ensure your personal and business affairs continue during any period of incapacity.

Often, farm succession planning meetings focus most of the discussion on the administration and distribution of assets through the will or trust after death. However, you need to plan for the rest of your lifetime, too.

Power-of-attorney documents bridge the gap between your incapacity and your passing. Anyone older than 18 should have a general power of attorney and health care power of attorney.

A general power of attorney, also known as a financial power of attorney, names an agent to act on your behalf as it relates to your finances, real property, personal property and more. The most common example is the person who can sign your name to checks or on a deed.

Even though we call it a “general” power of attorney, by law, the powers are limited to certain tasks. For your agent to make certain decisions in your stead, the document you sign must contain certain powers — such as the powers to delegate authority to an attorney for a government program application, or changing a beneficiary designation to avoid probate, or making gifts to protect your assets from creditors.

A health care power of attorney names an agent to make medical decisions for you, if you cannot act. This person, in consultation with your doctor, can determine your course of care, the prescriptions you take, the facility you are housed, whether you have a do not resuscitate and more. Generally, this only takes effect if you cannot communicate with your doctor.

A living will is another health care document, which exclusively relates to the end of life. If you sign a living will, generally you are instructing your doctor to withhold life-sustaining treatment if your primary or attending physician and one more doctor deem you terminal and permanently unconscious.

A living will is an optional document. Not everyone wants a living will because you may want a member of your family to make the final decision, or your religious denomination may have specific guidelines on how you should be treated toward the end of your life.

Generally, once someone signs a power of attorney, they leave the power of attorneys in place for a long time.

The main reasons why you should update your power-of-attorney documents include replacing someone who cannot act for you any longer (such as by death or change of relationship) or updating to reflect a change in how you want your agent to make decisions for you (such as opting to not have a living will).

Bachelor is an attorney with Wright and Moore Law based in Delaware, Ohio. Contact him at [email protected] or 740-990-0750 or visit ohiofarmlaw.com.

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