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Why you need someone to speak for you, when you can't

Needing someone to speak and make decisions on your behalf while you are still living might seem like a long shot. But, these situations are more common than you might have thought. Tragic accidents like the recent highway tragedy in Florida or other incidents can incapacitate us to the point we can't vocalize our decisions. This can also happen via a debilitating illness, like dementia.

There are many scenarios in which we can't clearly state what we want or need. This is why you need to appoint a trusting individual to take on estate administration by assigning them power of attorney. This will allow them to make legal decisions on your behalf. But, this can only be done when you officially grant them these powers. If you are married, you might assume your husband or wife will step in and make decisions for you. This is not the case unless you grant them this power legally.

When an individual has not identified someone to take on this role, the state will. Who wants total strangers deciding what is good for us? Therein lies the importance of granting powers of attorney and other legal rights in estate planning.

Powers of attorney, paired with a legal trust and living will is most effective. The power of attorney names a person -- and back-up individuals -- who can sign your name on legal documents. A living will and legal trust essentially are instructions for that individual, and dictates how they are to divide assets and conduct other estate administration on your behalf.

A medical directive is also very important in estate planning. By filing one of these, you are naming someone who can make medical decisions on your behalf when you are not in a state to do so.

Source: Times of Trenton, "Assessing the benefits of assigning a power of attorney," Eleanore Szymanski, Jan. 29, 2012

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