What Happens When You Don’t Have a Will and Power of Attorney?

Andrew Steffensmeier

Small business preparation and planning, investment advisory services, business tax planning services


Do you have a will and power of attorney? If not, you’re not alone. According to recent research, at least 68% of Americans do not have a will yet, with nearly 71.6% of those who do, having one that is not fully up-to-date. AARP adds that only slightly more than half of U.S. adults have a power of attorney, with 83% of those being 72 or older and only 41% in the Millennial generation. 

This suggests that most Americans are not adequately prepared for the future and what may come of it. This can become a problem for family and friends who will not have as easy of a time settling your affairs for you after your passing or while you are unable to care for yourself.

To stress the importance of having a will and power of attorney, we’ll cover what they are and what happens when you don’t have them. 

What Is a Will and Power of Attorney? 

A will is a legal document that explains what should happen with your property and any children after you pass away. For those who have minors in their care, it is also a chance to identify who you want to care for your children.

The document ensures your wishes are met and allows you to be very clear about what you want to be done with your assets. This way, there’s no room for misinterpretation or conflict from outside sources.

A power of attorney refers to a legal document that gives another person the authority to act for someone else in case of an emergency. For instance, many people enlist someone close to them, like a spouse or relative, to be their power of attorney. However, you should not pick someone simply because they are close to you but because you fully believe they will act in your best interests after you’re gone.

Your power of attorney will be able to make decisions about financial, medical, or property. This power will remain in effect during a medical emergency or if the person becomes disabled and can no longer make decisions on their own.

How Do They Work Together?

Your power of attorney provides you protection during your lifetime — your will provides protection after you pass away. According to LegalZoom, “Together they provide an ongoing umbrella of protection for your assets.”

Although they don’t have any effect on each other, they do go hand in hand because they ensure your wishes are met while living and after passing, protecting both your family and assets in the process. 

For instance, many experts suggest having a living will (similar to a will but specific to you still being alive but unable to make decisions) and a power of attorney. This way, the will can address scenarios such as:

  • Resuscitation (CPR & DNR)
  • Comfort Care (Palliative Care) & Pain Management
  • Tube Feeding
  • Mechanical Ventilation
  • Organ/Tissue Donations
  • Antibiotics/Antivirals

At this time, your power of attorney will be hard at work acting in your best interests regarding any additional financial, property, and business-related decisions that may need to be addressed. Having both at the same time allows your interests to be served at every angle without disruptions getting in the way. 

Downsides of Not Having a Will and Power of Attorney  

Although many of us don’t think much about not having a will and power of attorney can have on those around us, it can actually bring more stress and trouble than you may think. A will and power attorney ensures that your wishes are followed. Without them, those around you won’t have direction and may struggle to fulfill your wishes. 

Here are more specific downsides to not having either. 

Without a Will

If you don’t organize a will before your passing, the following issues can arise:

  1. Can’t be sure your wishes will be met 
  2. Can be a headache for your heirs after you pass 
  3. Estranged relatives or people you don’t want to receive any of your assets may be able to get them
  4. Your children’s care will be left up to the court
  5. Can lead to delays, more expenses, and even property loss

Without a Power of Attorney

If you don’t take the time to enlist a power of attorney, you also risk the following problems:

  1. The process of appointing someone to become a caretaker is much more strenuous and time-consuming. Loved ones may be drained of their time and money in the meantime.
  2. There’s no say in whom the court appoints (can also lead to additional fees and expenses)
  3. The person chosen may not be fully acquainted with your wishes, so they may not be fully qualified to represent your needs. For instance, a court-appointed POA could misread, and therefore, misrepresent you in major life decisions. 

Don’t Know Where to Begin? We Can Help

Despite being able to write your will as early as 18, many Americans put it off until they’re older — and some have yet to organize one even at 55 or older. According to Caring, at least 60% of adults 55 or older organized a will in 2019, but that figure has since dropped significantly to only about 44%. Although the reason is unclear, the statistics suggest the need for more awareness about the importance of protecting your family and assets. 

Even better, easy access to advisors who can assist you throughout the entire process can be beneficial. This way, you can rest assured that your wishes will be followed if anything were to happen to you. McMill CPAs & Advisors are the most trusted CPAs and advisors in Norfolk, NE, with extensive experience helping residents draft these documents when they don’t know where to begin.

Don’t risk waiting another minute to get your wishes on paper. Contact us for more insight on how we can help you prepare for the future with a will and power of attorney.