Tax Law Blog: Unfortunate Reminder of the Need for Powers of Attorney


When most people think of estate planning, they think of drafting a will or trust to say what happens to property after death. Arguably more important is what happens when you are alive but unable to make decisions following an unforeseen and unfortunate event.

A recent news story in the Des Moines area covered a family looking for assistance to cover legal bills for a family member who is in a coma following a car accident. The family is unable to get access to bank accounts or insurance information, and unable to pay her bills (or even know what bills exist) as they come due. The only way for family members to get access to this information is to go through the court system and have the court appoint someone to take care of those matters. That process takes time and money, both of which can be limited following an unexpected event.

Consider what would happen to your finances if you were unable to make decisions. Consider who would make health care decisions for you, and whether they would need to access prior medical records. For medical powers of attorney, does your agent know what type of care you want (or don't want) to receive? If you have financial powers of attorney in place, think about whether your agent knows what types of bills you would have, or at what institutions you have accounts. If you run a business, how well could the business operate without you making decisions for a week or more? These are all things to think about, whether included as part of an estate plan, a business plan or as part of daily life.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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