Now that people are living longer thanks to medical advancements, more Massachusetts residents should consider what would happen when they are no longer able to carry out daily activities without assistance. Most people consider powers of attorney for a time when they are completely unable to care for themselves or make decisions on their own. However, most people who are ultimately considered to be incapacitated experienced a decline in mental function that did not happen overnight.
Therefore, it might be a good idea to consider providing a trusted agent with the ability to perform certain functions on an individual's behalf when it becomes necessary. This would allow the individual to continue to handle certain aspects of his or her finances while obtaining assistance where needed. For example, it might become difficult to write due to debilitating arthritis or a stroke. The individual would maintain control over the decision-making process, but he or she would have help in carrying out those decisions.
Furthermore, it might be beneficial for the agent to understand what will be required of him or her before it is too late. If the agent does not understand what bills need to be paid, what accounts need to be monitored and/or what the individual's assets are, it would be difficult to carry out the duties prescribed in the power of attorney. In addition, if an agent is not aware of what health care decisions the individual would want made, the agent could inadvertently make an unwanted choice.
For those in Massachusetts, these are issues that need to be addressed before simply filling in the blanks of powers of attorney. Even if the agent is the other party's spouse, there is no guarantee that he or she would know what the individual would want. The prospective agent and the individual should have conversations about these and other issues prior to signing any documents in order to help ensure that the decisions made would be in line with what the individual would want.
Source: Forbes, "The Most Important Estate Planning Issue Boomers Need To Address", Kelley Long, May 8, 2016