Thursday, March 6, 2014

What Is Power Of Attorney And Do You Need It?

Recently a good friend and client of mine had a loved one in the hospital. It was a serious situation and hospital staff asked some difficult question like “Is there an advanced directive in place?” and “Is there someone with power of attorney?” Fortunately those questions never needed to be answered and the situation passed from serious to stable and eventually to a full recovery. But this situation brought some things up in my own mind and I want to share what I learned with you.

First of all having the proper papers drawn up to protect your interests if you can’t advocate for yourself is something everyone should do. It is a certainty that life will throw you curve balls and fast balls when you are least expecting it.

Second, in the event that you cannot speak for yourself being prepared will protect you and it will protect the things most precious to you like your loved ones and your property.

Third and probably the most obvious, is that setting something up is well worth the time and cost. Before you do anything consult a lawyer who specializes in estate planning and end of life issues. Don’t try to do this on your own by downloading a form from the internet! This is serious business and needs to be planned carefully. It’s worth the expense to set it up right the first time. Now let’s talk about what Power of Attorney means in the real world.

Power of attorney:

This gives the person or people named the power to act on your behalf. The power may be limited to a particular circumstance like closing the sale of your home. Or, it could be more general where one or more persons will act on your behalf in a variety of situations. It could be effective immediately or only upon a certain event in the future.  A power of attorney can give temporary or continuous, permanent authority to act on your behalf. A power of attorney can be revoked, but most states require written notice of revocation.

Who will speak for you?

Many people choose a loved one to act on their behalf. Some people choose their spouses, children, siblings, or close friends. Some people choose their attorney or their accountant or even a bank to act for them. There are no special qualifications needed for someone to be appointed as your power of attorney. As long as they are over 18 and not otherwise incapacitated you can appoint them. The best choice is to choose someone you trust implicitly with your well-being, your property and loved ones.

Are there different types of power of attorney?

Yes. There is “durable” power of attorney, “limited” power of attorney, and “non-durable” power of attorney. Each one has a specific use and purpose. The best way to know which you need is to consult your own attorney. Most estate planners recommend a medical power of attorney and a property power of attorney. You can appoint the same person or different people to act as your agent in either case.

Although we can’t set up a power of attorney for you we can help you with other aspects of life and financial planning. Contact our office and see what we can do for you.


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