Power of Attorney
There are times when are not available or unable to make certain important decisions affecting financial affairs or your health care Sometimes these events are planned, but other times things happen without any notice. Therefore, as part of your estate plan it is important for you to name a person who can make those important decisions for you if you become incapacitated.
To make certain that the person you want to make those important decisions has the authority to act, you need a power of attorney. The State of Illinois has separate statutory power of attorney that can be used to address how your financial issues and health care matters are to be handled.
As the "principal" in the power of attorney, you choose someone (often called your "agent" or "attorney in fact") to perform certain tasks for you. Once your agent or attorney in fact makes decisions, you agree to be bound by his or her acts. You can grant one-time permission to fill in for you (a regular or limited power) or give a power with no expiration date (a durable power). An agent must be over 18 and capable of accepting the appointment. This agent or attorney in fact has a fiduciary responsibility to you must act in an honest and reasonable manner. You can only name one agent at a time, although we suggest you name successor agents if the agent you appointed is unable or unwilling to act at the time.
If you do not have a power of attorney, a court may be required to assign someone to make the decisions for you. Consequently, it could be very costly and may result in a person that would not want to make those decisions. A power of attorney is the most effective and efficient way for naming your agent. Medical or Health Care Power
A power of attorney for health care or a health care proxy provides your agent with permission to make health decisions such as picking a health-care provider or hospital, paying medical premiums, keeping track of insurance claims and pursuing treatment options on your behalf while you are unable to make those decisions. It also provides guidance to your agent about the amount of life support you want under certain circumstances.
A power of attorney for financial issues provides your agent with the responsibility to handle a wide variety of financial tasks including investing, paying bills, handling taxes, collecting benefits and buying and selling real estate, although you can also specifically limit the amount of responsibility. In order to have someone handle these matters on your behalf, banks brokerage firms, credit card companies and other institutions and organizations require strict documentation to show you provided decision making capability to your attorney in fact -- especially as it pertains to gifts.
If you're a small business owner, your agent or attorney in fact can provide you with assistance with day-to-day operations during your absence.