Powers of Attorney come in many forms. These flexible documents can help make sure that if you are ever unable to manage your affairs because of illness or disability you have named a trusted person to look out for your interests.
What if I don’t Have a Power of Attorney?
If you have not worked with an estate planning lawyer to execute a proper Power of Attorney, then if you are ever incapacitated the courts will determine who represents your interests. This might include a Guardian of the Person or Guardian of the Estate. These Guardians might be a trusted family member, but they might be a bank or trust company.
What Types of Powers of Attorney Exist?
Estate Planning Lawyers have crafted Powers of Attorney to address different situations.
- Temporary Guardian for Your Minor Child. If you are incapacitated in a car accident, who has the power to take your child home from the hospital? Who can authorize medical care for your child if you and the other parent are not available? A Temporary Guardian Power of Attorney grants the person your trust with these powers.
- Medical Power of Attorney, Living Will: Called by many names, this document appoints a person to have the power to exercise your rights to direct health care. This would include selecting your doctor and treatment. In the extreme, it is also the right to refuse medical treatment for you.
- Financial Power of Attorney: Your Will only has power if you have died. Should you become incapacitated, the person you appoint in a Financial Power of Attorney steps in to manage your legal affairs. This may include filing your taxes, selling real estate and paying your bills. But be careful! In most states, the Financial Power of Attorney does not require your incapacity. That means if your Agent a signed copy they can use its power immediately. There is no requirement that your bank verifies that you approve of the Agent’s actions. So, your Agent could steal from you. Be careful whom you select and set up checks and balances. Many clients have us hold the Financial Power of Attorney in our safe with written instructions to release the Power of Attorney only if the Agent can prove to me they have become incapacitated. This usually is easy, as the Agent typically reaches out to me when my client is in the hospital unable to act. Until then, the Financial Power of Attorney sits safely in my Will Safe.
- Special Powers of Attorney. A Financial Power of Attorney is typically a General Durable Power of Attorney. Meaning it grants broad powers. A Special Power of Attorney sometimes called a Limited Power of Attorney focuses on a specific date or task. For example, your Estate Planning Lawyer could craft a Power of Attorney granting your child the right to sell your house to a particular person on a specific date. This way you are still giving the Agent the necessary power, but not granting them the power to take actions beyond the particular task you envision.
In conclusion, this post is a short introduction to a critical and complex issue. Contact an experienced lawyer, like an estate attorney Cherry Hill, NJ families turn to, in your area to find out what plan best fits your needs.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Klenk Law for their insight into Power of Attorney and estate planning.