Understanding The Importance Of A Power Of Attorney
A power of attorney (POA) is a critical part of your overall estate planning. This legal instrument will allow you to designate your choice of person, your “agent,” whom you trust to speak and act on your behalf should you suddenly become ill, injured or otherwise incapacitated. The POA gives your agent legal authority to conduct your financial or business transactions, including sign checks, file your taxes, apply for government benefits and other designated matters for you if cannot do so on your own.
There are different reasons for drafting a power of attorney, but the instrument must be created and signed while a person has the mental capacity to make their own legal decisions. A person can designate another trusted individual to take care of financial matters, including signing documents and other significant transactions, for a specific time frame, for a specific purpose. For example, if a real estate transaction must be made within certain dates and a person is traveling out of town or the country on those dates, or is scheduled for surgery, they may designate another trusted individual to make those signatures on their behalf.
Many estate plans contain a durable power of attorney with “springing” powers. This type of document will ensure the person who creates the durable POA has a trusted person assigned as their agent to handle their affairs should they become mentally incapacitated. The instrument can be created with the language that the agent would only be granted legal authority under the POA after a physician indicates the grantor has become mentally incapacitated. It would thus ‘spring’ into power.
An advance health care directive (AHCD) is a separate legal instrument which some refer to as a “medical power of attorney,” or “living will.” This document specifically addresses a person’s wishes for medical treatment for end-of-life care, including their decisions about life support, pain medication, hydration and intubation while they are alive but cannot speak for themselves.
Can I Revise My POA Anytime I Wish?
After a POA is created, it may be revoked or revised at any time the person wishes, provided they have the mental capacity to do so. There are several vital steps involved and working with an experienced estate planning attorney can ensure your best interests are protected when revocations or revisions are made to your POA.
While discussing incapacity is often a frightening prospect for many people, the alternative may be worse. Without a power of attorney, especially for senior citizens, a person is more vulnerable to financial exploitation. It could also mean costly alternatives such as petitioning the court for conservatorship.
Call Freedman Law Firm To Establish Or Update Your POA
Confidently discuss your questions and concerns with an attorney whom families have trusted for over 30 years. Michael Freedman has provided quality estate planning services to people throughout the San Francisco Bay area and greater California. We have the knowledge to help you protect yourself and your assets in the future. Call 415-777-1666 or reach out to us online through this website to arrange a free consultation.