It sounds like something out of a fortune cookie: “No decision is also a decision.” As far as your children and your assets go, though, the saying is apt. If you don’t deliberately make choices, someone else will end up making them for you. Chances are, that decision-maker will be a Michigan court.
There’s another saying: You can never plan too soon, only too late. Let’s take a look at some common situations for which you can plan in order to be the decision maker for your children, your assets, or your children’s assets.
Michigan Power of Attorney for Healthcare and Financial Matters
Right now, you’re able to make important decisions regarding your finances and healthcare, but an accident or sudden illness could change that in an instant. If you were in a coma following a car accident, or incapacitated by a stroke, who would make those decisions for you?
A financial power of attorney allows a trusted family member or friend access to your financial life. A medical power of attorney allows someone to act as your agent for the purpose of making medical decisions for you during a time when you are unable to make those decisions.
In Michigan, a medical power of attorney is “springing,” which means it takes effect only when you become incapable of making your own medical decisions. A financial power of attorney can be a springing power as well, or, if you prefer, it can be durable, meaning that it goes into effect before you are incapacitated, and continues afterward.
While you can appoint different people to make medical and financial decisions for you, be aware that those people may need to work together to make arrangements for your care. One scenario in which this might happen is if you needed long-term nursing home care. One person would arrange for the care, and the other would need to make the financial arrangements. Therefore, you should choose an agent and medical advocate you believe can cooperate with each other.
In the absence of valid powers of attorney, the probate court would appoint someone to make these decisions for you if needed. This person would likely be a near relative, but might not be the one you would choose. The only way to ensure that your financial and medical decisions are made as you wish in the event you become incapacitated is to choose someone to hold a power of attorney on your behalf. The powers that you grant them can be as broad or as narrow as you choose; it’s best to discuss these specifics with an attorney so that you fully understand just what authority you’re granting.
Michigan Guardianships and Conservatorships for the Benefit of Minors
As upsetting as it can be to think of a Michigan court appointing someone to make decisions for your care and finances, it is even more so to imagine your child at the court’s mercy. While judges make the best decisions they can, the outcome can be very different from what a parent would choose.
If you have a minor child, or a child with special needs, it’s critical to imagine who would be responsible for their care if you and their other parent were not available. A guardian is responsible for the care of a person who cannot care for himself, such as a minor or a disabled adult child. A conservator is responsible for that person’s assets, which he is legally incapable of managing on his own. The same person can act as guardian and conservator, or different people can be chosen for each role, but again, the people chosen should be able to work together for the child’s benefit. Guardians and conservators can be specified in a parent’s will, removing the decision from the court’s hands.
If you live in Oakland County, Wayne County, Macomb County, or anywhere in Southeast Michigan and want to protect yourself, your children, and your assets from court interference, you need the help of an experienced Michigan estate planning attorney. Contact our Bloomfield Hills office to schedule a consultation with Jim Hubbert, so that we can help you keep decision-making power in your hands.