Current events are causing all of us to look at life and make sure that we're prepared for the unexpected. Whether it's a surprise deployment, a family emergency or something else, does your family have the tools they need to manage life if you're not available?
I have to predicate all this with a warning. Giving someone access to your financial and legal affairs is a big deal, and if the person isn't 100% trustworthy, they could do a lot of damage. You have to pick someone responsible and find the right balance between giving them power and protecting your own interests.
Powers of Attorney
Maintain current powers of attorney so that your family members can handle banking, insurance, vehicle, housing, and other legal and financial tasks on your behalf. Consider what kinds of special power of attorney you will need. General powers of attorney are accepted less frequently and don't always have the necessary information contained on special powers of attorney.
You can get powers of attorney at your installation's legal office. There are two types of powers of attorney: the general power of attorney and the limited power of attorney.
A general power of attorney gives the recipient all powers to sign legal documents, enter into contracts, or manage finances, while a limited power of attorney gives the recipient only specific, limited powers.
For example, if you are caring for a parent who has limited mental capability, you may obtain a general power of attorney to supervise their health, monetary and legal issues. However, if you are deployed and want your spouse to sign a rental document in your absence you can get a limited power of attorney only giving them the authority to sign for you in that one instance, you may also limit the time period in which this may occur.
Lets see some examples:
Wills and Medical Powers of Attorney
While everyone knows the importance of having a will, many don’t know that a medical power of attorney is also very important. These documents will ensure your wishes are honored if you are unable to make decisions for yourself.
A Family Care Plan
You've probably heard family care plans used for single parents or dual military couples. But you should have some version of a family care plan regardless of your status. If you have a non-military family, they can be put out of commission by an accident or illness. Who will take care of the kids? What information do they need to make your children feel safe and comfortable if you're not available? A power of attorney is the solution.
Make sure your spouse or other responsible adult has access to your various accounts. You can set up a limited access account for them to see your MyPay and provide access to your other accounts, as appropriate
A Basic Understanding of Your Financial System
Teach your family members how you pay your bills each month or leave instructions so they can learn. You could even do a recording of your screen if you do everything electronically. It doesn't matter what system you use, as long as it ensures that your bills get paid.
Key Household Information
We all know that when one part of your life is in upheaval, other things seem to follow along. Whether it's the care that won't start the day the ship pulls out, or the hot water heater that explodes during the first week of deployment, challenging situations are harder if they don't know the right information.
Make sure your family knows key information to maintain your home and vehicles. Where is the water shutoff, gas line shutoff and circuit breaker box? Which GFCI circuit breaker outlet is attached to the one that always pops when the power goes out? Where do you keep the spare keys to the cars? Where is the latch to open the hood on the car? (You'd be surprised how many weird places those can hide.)
Don't Forget The Pets
If you have pets, make sure that your plans include care for them. Provide information about their food, medications and veterinarian information. Consider whether you need to have a friend or kennel designated in case they can't stay in your home.
Unexpected things happen all the time. Being prepared is the best way to make life less stressful for everyone involved. Take some time this week to get your affairs in order, so you can be confident no matter what happens.
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