The basic types of power of attorney allow an individual to appoint another person to make important decisions for you if you are unable to do so because of illness or disability. These agreements are created under Illinois law and must meet specific requirements to be valid. However, there are different types of powers of attorney, depending on your needs. When creating a comprehensive estate plan, it’s critical to ensure both financial and healthcare powers of attorney are in place so you can rest assured your wishes will be carried out.
Illinois Power of Attorney Requirements
The first step in establishing a power of attorney is selecting someone who will have the authority to act as your agent. When you’re thinking about choosing a person to appoint as your power of attorney, it’s vital to select someone you trust to act in your best interests. You must also decide how much power you will give your agent — also sometimes referred to as an “attorney-in-fact.” They can either make all your decisions or they may only have authority to act in certain situations.
Under the Illinois Power of Attorney Act, the document must be signed in the presence of a notary and at least one witness to be valid. But the witness cannot be your healthcare provider, a close relative (or their spouse), or the individual you named as the agent. It’s also a good idea to name a successor agent in the event that your first choice is unable to act on your behalf.
Importantly, you must be of sound mind at the time the power of attorney is created. In other words, you must have had the mental capacity to understand the document you were signing and the consequences of doing so. A guardianship proceeding may be necessary to determine who will have the authority to make decisions on your behalf if you were not competent when you executed the power of attorney.
Once the power of attorney has been signed and notarized, the original should be stored in a safe place. In addition, it’s crucial to provide the individuals designated as your agents with copies so they can familiarize themselves with the content.
What is a Financial Power of Attorney?
A financial power of attorney is a document that allows another person to handle your financial affairs and oversee your business matters in the event you become incapacitated. Responsibilities that come with this type of power of attorney typically include the following:
- Controlling your bank account
- Paying bills
- Handling tax matters
- Managing your property
- Buying and selling stocks
- Handling financial transactions
The person designated as a financial power of attorney might also handle tasks such as collecting Social Security or other government benefits, conducting real estate transactions, and claiming property you’ve inherited. This type of power of attorney can be general, and give your agent the authority to do anything you would be able to do yourself. Or, it can limit their power to carrying out certain duties.
What is a Healthcare Power of Attorney?
A healthcare power of attorney grants authority to another person to make medical decisions on your behalf. You may need to have a power of attorney in place temporarily, such as if you will be undergoing anesthesia, or it may be contingent upon incapacity. A healthcare power of attorney can include provisions for treatment options, surgery, organ donations, intubation, resuscitation, and end-of-life decisions. It can also give your agent the authority to authorize an autopsy and decide what will happen to your body upon passing.
As with a financial power of attorney, a healthcare power of attorney can be general or very specific. For instance, if certain treatments are against your religious beliefs, you can specify in the healthcare power of attorney that you do not wish to have those treatments rendered. This document can also be used along with a living will, which can provide the agent with additional guidance and address life-sustaining measures.
When Do Powers of Attorney Become Effective?
In Illinois, a power of attorney is “durable” by default. A durable power of attorney becomes effective immediately upon execution and remains in effect in the event of incapacity. The language can also be crafted in such a way that the power of attorney is only effective upon the occurrence of a specific event — such as when a doctor declares you incapacitated. This is known as a “springing” power of attorney.
Both financial and healthcare powers of attorney are extinguished upon your passing. At that time, the executor or personal representative of your estate would step in to handle your affairs. A power of attorney can also end if you revoke it, the named agent is not available, or a court determines that the document invalid. In Illinois, a judgment of divorce or legal separation also terminates a power of attorney.
Contact an Experienced Illinois Estate Planning Attorney
It is essential to have financial and healthcare powers of attorney in place to plan for the unexpected. However, these documents can be complex and it’s important to have skilled counsel who can ensure your power of attorney is legally valid and satisfies your objectives. Located in Rolling Meadows, Illinois and serving clients throughout the Northwest suburbs and Chicago area, Hess Law Firm provides high-quality legal services for drafting powers of attorney and a wide variety of estate planning matters. Call (847) 367-6990 or email email@example.com today to schedule an appointment.