Powers of attorney and advance directives
We assist our clients in being prepared to address the difficult situations they face should they ever suffer a temporary or permanent incapacitating illness or injury. A client should always have in place a Durable General Power of Attorney (also called a Property Power of Attorney) as part of a complete estate plan. Such a power of attorney (always "durable" when used in connection with estate planning) authorizes an agent, called "Attorney in Fact," to act on a person's behalf and sign their name to financial and/or legal documents. The Property Power of Attorney is an essential tool in the event that, due to age, illness, or injury, a person is unable to carry on their legal and financial affairs. Having a Property Power of Attorney will generally avoid the need to go through the time-consuming, expensive, and publicly embarrassing process whereby someone has to go to court to have a person declared mentally or physically incompetent and then one or more persons need to be appointed to serve as their legal guardian and/or conservator, which process is subject to ongoing court supervision. State laws vary regarding the use and acceptance of a power of attorney, but in Illinois, they are widely accepted by the courts.
A Health Care Power of Attorney (also called a Medical Power of Attorney or an Advance Medical Directive) appoints an agent, called a person's "Medical Agent," to make decisions with respect to their medical care in the event they are physically or mentally unable to do so. In this document, a person gives their Medical Agent the power to consent to medical and healthcare decisions on their behalf with regard to providing, withholding or withdrawing a specific medical treatment or course of treatment when they are incapable of making or communicating an informed decision on their own behalf.
The Health Care Power of Attorney also includes the type of provisions that used to be in what was commonly called a "Living Will," allowing a person to indicate their wishes concerning the use of artificial or extraordinary measures to prolong their life artificially in the event of a terminal illness or injury. A client will also use this document to indicate their wishes with regard to organ donation, disposition of bodily remains and funeral arrangements.