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Why Powers of Attorney are Important to You!

Powers of Attorney are very powerful documents that allow an individual (the “Principal”) to designate an individual or entity (the “agent”) to make financial and health care decisions for him or her when they are no longer able to make those decisions on his or her own. In Illinois, there are two types of Powers of Attorney that are important for an individual to have prepared.  These are a Power of Attorney for Health Care and a Power of Attorney for Property.

In 2011, the Illinois law on Powers of Attorney for Property was overhauled to include a provision that any newly executed Power of Attorney for Property revokes all prior Powers of Attorney for Property. Additionally, the 2011 changes placed limitations on those who cannot act as a witness to the signing of the document—an attending physician or mental health service provider, or a relative of same; an owner/operator of a health care facility where you reside or obtain treatment, or a relative of same; a parent, sibling, descendant, or any spouse of same of either you, your agent or successor agent; and the agent or successor agent named in the Power of Attorney. Most importantly, a carefully prepared Power of Attorney for Property can be utilized as an alternative to a formal guardianship proceeding, and allow your designated agent to handle your financial transactions and decisions when you cannot.

Then, following suit in 2015, the statute governing Powers of Attorney for Health Care was modified to create a shorter, simpler advance directive that individuals can complete, expressing their end-of-life health care wishes and appointing a legal agent to make decisions for them. The updated statute also allows your agent access to your medical records, including medical information covered by HIPAA.  If you fail to execute a Power of Attorney for Health Care, if you are unable to make your own medical decisions, the decision-making authority defaults to individuals under Illinois law that you may not want to make decisions for you. A Power of Attorney for Health Care is simple to execute and allows you, as the Principal, to retain your autonomy over important health care decisions. The existence of a Power of Attorney for Health Care may prevent potential litigation and ugly disagreements between family members.

Whether you have previous Power of Attorney documents, or none at all, it is always important for you to consult an attorney to determine which documents will best protect you and your loved ones. The attorneys at Peck Ritchey, LLC are here to help provide you with trusted, thoughtful legal counsel.

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