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Estate planning is not only about preparing for one's death. It is also about preparing for when a person becomes seriously ill or injured but is still alive in Maryland or in any other state. In this condition, a person may be incapacitated, which means he or she is not able to make decisions for himself or herself. This is where a power of attorney document comes in handy. There are two types of power of attorney documents -- a durable power of attorney and a health care power of attorney.

The durable power of attorney, sometimes known as a financial power of attorney, enables one to give another person the legal authority to make financial and legal decisions in the case of incapacitation. However, it is important to choose the right person to give this power. This person should have enough money management skills to make good decisions.

A health care power of attorney gives another person the authority to legally make decisions regarding medical care in the case of incapacitation. This type of power of attorney document is also known as a health care proxy. It is a good idea to choose a person who is likely to remain calm during a medical emergency when deciding who will be given this important task.

Besides choosing the person to take on responsibilities of power of attorney, it is essential to ensure that the legal documents are properly drafted. Failure to include the necessary legal language could result in the power of attorney documents being challenged in court in Maryland. This can cause serious problems when a person has been seriously injured and is incapacitated for an extended period of time.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Four Estate Planning Documents Everyone Should Have", Tom Lauricella, April 20, 2014

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