Power of Attorney

Naming someone as durable power of attorney is one of the most important tools within your estate plan and must be done carefully. It allows someone to act on your behalf should you become incapacitated. Whomever you appoint as your “agent” or “attorney in fact” can make decisions for you or manage your finances. A power of attorney document should be tailored to your specific needs and situation. An attorney can help you consider and incorporate the various issues.

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The power of attorney document delineates the specific powers the agent will have. These powers can include paying and collecting debts, buying or selling property, managing a business, investing and borrowing money, engaging in legal proceedings, consenting to medical treatment, making gifts and designating beneficiaries. Make sure your document includes the powers appropriate for you.

This legal document must be carefully worded to determine time of effectivity. It can take effect immediately or it can take effect once you are incapacitated. If it is to take effect only when you are incapacitated it is a “springing” power of attorney and it is then essential to spell out how incapacity will be determined.

Multiple people can be given power of attorney. If multiple people are named, it must be specified whether they need to act jointly, independently, or if one is an alternative agent to another.

A guardian can be nominated with a power of attorney document. This allows you to make clear who you want to have manage your affairs. The court will almost always abide by your nomination.

A power of attorney must meet certain requirements to be valid. Different states have different requirements for execution of this document. Some states require a signature while others require that it be notarized or witnessed. Work with your attorney to make sure it is executed properly.

Many financial institutions have their own power of attorney forms. You may need to execute power of attorney forms at your various financial institutions even though you executed your original document accurately. Make sure that the forms at your bank or other financial institution match your original power of attorney and don’t restrict a power of attorney’s ability to deal with other assets.

A durable power of attorney document is a powerful and critical component of your estate plan. Consult with an attorney to make sure that it is valid, executed properly, and tailored to your specific needs. You want to make sure that it works for you.