The human body is an imperfect machine subject to breakdown as it gets older. We know that we have to eat properly and stay in shape with plenty of exercise in order to minimize the effects of injuries or illnesses even if we can’t prevent them outright.

Along with vitamins, chicken soup and the treadmill, some preventive law is also in order. Taking care of personal affairs during an illness is easier if some planning is done when you are well.

It is important that your spouse and adult children have the means to help out in a pinch. A few simple hints will make that easier to do.

Keep a list of all your important financial information in a place known to your family members so they can find it if you are incapacitated. The identity of bank accounts, insurance policies, information about monthly bills –mortgage, utilities, etc.– as well as the location of safe deposit boxes and your will must be available to those people you designate to help you.

A power of attorney is an important tool which confers upon the recipient the power to transact business(such as real estate or banking transactions)as if they were the giver. A durable power of attorney may be used even if the giver becomes mentally incompetent. Since a power of attorney cannot be given by somebody who is already mentally incompetent, the results may be catastrophic if mom or dad suffers a stroke before getting around to this most important piece of business. Any competent person can always revoke a power of attorney they have previously given for any reason whatsoever. The power of attorney is automatically terminated by the death of the giver.

The holder of the power of attorney is a fiduciary.Fiduciaries are entrusted with the right to control the property of others and are held to a very high standard. They may not unduly risk assets placed in their care or use them for their own benefit. Before exercising a power of attorney, it might be a good idea to first confer with a lawyer to better understand how it can and should be used.