Throughout this series on financial powers of attorney, I have stated that everyone should have a financial power of attorney (FPOA). This document enables you to give legal authority to an agent to assist you in managing your financial affairs. It protects you in case you become incapacitated. If you are having problems managing your financial affairs, it allows you to choose a person to help you. The FPOA document then allows you to give legal authority to that chosen agent to help you. FPOA are simple to obtain, and are normally relatively inexpensive. They aren’t perfect (please see my previous article, “What Issues are Associated with POAs” for more information on potential problems and how to mitigate them) but for most people, especially for those who get professional help to draft their FPOA, these documents will save you and your loved ones both time and money. When you consider that FPOAs come into play almost exclusively during times of high stress, planning ahead and protecting yourself becomes especially valuable. As with all insurance, there are risk factors that increase need. For example, we all need health insurance, but having a heart condition increases that need. For a FPOA, one factor that increases need is to be a first responder or active military.
If you are a first responder, the reason that your need is increased is because of the risk of your job. When you go into a dangerous situation, your risk of becoming incapacitated increases. If you get injured on the job, your life at home will not stop; someone will still need to pay the bills and the mortgage. If you do not have a way for another person to handle this for you, there can be major repercussions. If the incapacity is serious enough, a loved one could file a guardianship motion in the courts in order to handle your affairs. However, a guardianship proceeding is an expensive and time consuming affair.
In the past, I have participated in an event called: “Wills for Heroes” (http://www.willsforheroes.org/), which provides free estate planning documents to first responders. The way these events work is that a local first responder station (police, fire, etc.) hosts an event where first responders, who qualify can come to the station and meet with volunteer attorneys, who will provide the first responder with a will, health care proxy, living will and FPOA for no charge. Unfortunately, attorneys and first responders both do not attend these events in high numbers. These events are an easy way to get valuable documents, if one comes to your station; I recommend you take advantage of this free service.
That being said, “Wills for Heroes” documents will be basic documents. If you want more complex documents, or if there are no “Wills for Heroes” events near you, I’d recommend speaking to your union representative to see what estate planning benefits you are entitled to. Often this is in the form of a voucher that you can give to an attorney for their services.
For active military, the need grows even more. Not only do you have a dangerous job, but you can also be deployed overseas. If you are out of the country you need to have someone back at home taking care of your financial affairs for you. Your base JAG office will provide these documents to you for free. There are some restrictions; for example they can’t provide legal services for an outside business you run, but they will be able to provide you with simple documents, or refer you to civilian council who will help you.
With all dangerous jobs, there is an increase in the risk that you will become incapacitated. To lessen the impact of this risk you need a FPOA. This document will allow you to appoint a person to handle your financial affairs when you are unavailable, saving time, stress and money. The Law Offices of Matthew F Medaglia is proud to provide discounted legal services to first responders, active military and their families.
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