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Illinois wills and trusts lawyersWhen drafting an estate plan, guarantors are often asked whether they have selected a power of attorney to represent them during a period of incapacitation. Do you really need such a person and how do you decide which person to name in your will or trust? More importantly, how can you ensure that the person you select is able to effectively represent your interests? Learn the answers to these questions in the following sections, and to discover how the assistance of a seasoned wills and trusts lawyer can protect the best interests of you, your heirs, and your estate. 

Why Assign a Power of Attorney? 

Although it can be unnerving to legally name and assign someone to handle your financial and healthcare decisions during a period of incapacitation, doing so can benefit you, your family, and your estate. First, it can ensure that you are not given medical treatments that you do not wish to receive. You are also less likely to experience the financial consequences that tend to occur when one’s finances go unmanaged (i.e. late fees, extreme loss in the stock market, unpaid bills, etc.), which can ensure your estate remains preserved for your heirs, should you eventually pass away. 

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A healthcare power of attorney is a legal document that allows an individual (the "Principal") to give another person (the "Agent") the authority to act on his or her behalf as far as decisions regarding healthcare. Under the Illinois Power of Attorney Act, this document can limit the authority of the Agent, specify when the Agent's authority begins and ends, detail the duties that the Agent's authority covers, and set forth any limitations on the Agent's authority.

One common provision of a healthcare power of attorney, for instance, deals with decisions about whether to give or withdraw life-sustaining treatment. If a Principal has certain religious beliefs that prohibit or discourage certain types of medical treatment, a healthcare power of attorney can leave various instructions for the Agent regarding those types of treatment should the situation arise.

The important thing to remember is that you will continue to make your own healthcare decisions until you are no longer able or legally competent to do so. It is only when you become so ill that you cannot make those decisions for yourself that a healthcare power of attorney typically becomes operative.

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