This Blog was written by Emily Racine, Estate and Trust Consultant with Scotia Wealth Management
Many of my estate planning conversations revolve around what I call the “hard topics” – such as, how do I save on taxes? Should I avoid probate? Do my children need a trust? However, one of the most important decisions you can make as part of your estate plan is who is going to take care of medical and personal care decisions for you when you cannot make them yourself. The importance of this decision should not be ignored.
Obviously, there are a lot of financial concerns around families, estate plans and death. There are lots of decisions to make that can have very real and very significant consequences to the assets of a family and the transfer of wealth to the next generation. However, in my experience, when the time comes, clients lose some of the urgency and concern around these topics for more personal concerns.
When your health starts to decline, who do you trust to make decisions for you? Do you feel comfortable having uncomfortable conversations with that person? Does he or she know what your wishes are when it comes to long term care versus at home care? How about when it comes to end-of-life care? These questions are as essential to an estate plan as a balance sheet of assets and yet it often only receive a few moments of discussion.
When deciding who you want to name as your power of attorney for personal care, I would suggest asking yourself the following questions: (1) Does he or she know my values and would be willing to follow them even if my values conflict with their own? (2) Am I comfortable expressing my wishes to this person? (3) Does he or she have the emotional stability and support network to make these difficult decisions if called upon?
Importantly, the answers to these questions may lead you to someone very different than the person you may wish to handle your financial affairs. While the Power of Attorney for property and the Power of Attorney for care may be the same person, they certainly do not have to be. It is important not simply to use the POA for property as the POA for care without giving it a second thought.
Spend some time on the question of who you want to make financial decisions for you. It is just as important as deciding who will be your executor or your power of attorney for property and should be treated as such.