There may come a time when you need to have the legal authority to make important decisions for a spouse, family member, or loved one. While there are some decisions that a spouse may make as a matter of law, even the authority of a spouse is not always as clear as you may think it should be. If your relationship is only that of a family member or loved one you may find that the law does not allow you to make any decisions without a court order unless the possibility of incapacity was planned for in advance. An advance plan could include the execution of a power of attorney, giving you legal authority to make decisions. Without that you may be forced to petition for guardianship. Though both a guardianship and a power of attorney in St Louis Missouri can both provide you with the legal authority to make decisions on someone else’s behalf, there are some important differences between the two.
A power of attorney in St Louis Missouri is a legal document that must be executed by y the principal prior to becoming incapacitated. A power of attorney allows the principal to appoint you as his or her agent with the authority to act on the principal’s behalf in legal matters. The extent of authority granted in a POA depends on the language in the document itself. A general POA grants almost unlimited authority; however, depending on the state where you plan to use the POA even a general POA may not allow you to make all healthcare decisions and may have additional limitations. In Missouri, if the principal executed a durable power of attorney for healthcare and a durable power of attorney for financial decisions these two documents will typically cover the majority of decisions that need to be made should the principal become incapacitated.
If no POA exists when an individual becomes incapacitated it is often necessary to petition a court for guardianship over the individual in order to be granted the right to make healthcare and/or financial decisions. Applying to become a guardian requires you to file the appropriate petition with a court, notify the incapacitated individual and interested family members, and then convincing the court that a guardian is needed and you are the best person for the job. If the court finds that a guardian is needed it may grant you broad powers or limited authority depending on the needs of the incapacitated person.
To avoid the need for a guardianship, talk to your estate planning attorney in St Louis Missouri about including an incapacity plan in your overall estate plan. If you find yourself concerned over a family member or loved one, however, you can also consult with your attorney about your guardianship options.