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There are a number of important items to contemplate when it comes to estate planning; wills, trusts, beneficiary designations, etc. However, there are two essential pieces of your estate plan that are often postponed until it’s too late. Power of attorney (POA) designations and health care proxies are imperative in the event that you are no longer able to perform your daily activities. The Health Care Proxy and POA are unique estate planning tools because they are enforceable while you are still alive.

According to the New York State Department of Health, the New York Health Care Proxy Law allows you to appoint someone you trust to make health care decisions for you if you lose the ability to make decisions yourself. By appointing a health care agent, you can make sure that health care providers follow your wishes.

Your agent can also decide how your wishes apply as your medical condition changes. Hospitals, doctors and other health care providers must follow your agent’s decisions as if they were your own. You may give the person you select as your health care agent as little or as much authority as you want. You may allow your agent to make all health care decisions or only certain ones. You may also give your agent instructions that he or she has to follow. This form can also be used to document your wishes or instructions with regard to organ and/or tissue donation.

Some assume that by simply delegating a power of attorney they’re covered in the event that they can no longer handle their property and financial affairs. One must consider what powers they actually want their agent to have and if there are any powers they may want to limit their agent from performing. Also, one can never be too careful, you should choose an alternate agent, or secondary, in case your first choice is not available when and if the time comes.

Examples of powers usually granted to a general power of attorney are, but not limited to, buying and selling of real estate, handling banking transactions, tend to government benefits and purchasing life insurance. There are optional powers that can be assigned that are often overlooked such as gifting of assets and maintaining business interests.

Please remember, before making any decisions or changes to your current objectives, it is wise for you to discuss your estate plan with your attorney to ensure that your final requests are accomplished as you indicated with your estate planning documents.

Contributed by Michael Hart, CTFA. Michael joined Chemung Canal Trust Company in 2008 and is currently Assistant Vice President and Associate Relationship Manager within our Trust & Estate Administration Department.

For additional guidance, please contact Marci Cartwright at 607-737-3754 or