When the time comes, having a power of attorney is a critical document to have. The power of attorney is among a handful of estate planning documents that help with decision making when a person is too ill, injured, is unavailable, or lacks the mental capacity to make their own decisions. The article, “Why you’re never too young for a power of attorney” from Lancaster Online, explains what these documents are, and what purpose they serve.
You’re never too young or too old to have a power of attorney. If you don’t, a conservator must be appointed in a court proceeding. If the conservator who is appointed does not know you or your family, they may make decisions that you would not have wanted.
Conservatorships are a lengthy and sometimes embarrassing process. Therefore, everyone over the age of 18 should have a power of attorney to avoid a conservatorship.
It’s never too early, but it could be too late. If you become mentally incapacitated, you cannot sign a power of attorney. In that event, your family is faced with needing to pursue a conservatorship, and will not have the ability to make decisions or act on your behalf until that is in place.
You’ll want to name someone you trust implicitly as your agent. This person should be someone who can be available to make decisions when time is of the essence. It is helpful if they live somewhat nearby, but it is not essential.
Always have back-up agents named in the document, so that if your primary agent is unavailable or declines to serve, you have someone else who can step in.
You should work with an estate planning attorney to create the power of attorney you need. You may want to assign only select powers, like managing certain bank accounts but not the sale of your home, for instance. An estate planning attorney will be able to tailor the document to your exact needs. They will also make sure to create a document that gives proper powers that you may not even think of to the people you select.
Any power of attorney you have created should be updated on a fairly regular basis. Over time, laws change, or your personal situation may change. Even if the law doesn’t change, older documents are not as readily accepted as more recent ones. In addition, review the documents at least annually to be sure that the people you have selected are still the people you want taking care of these matters for you.
Most important of all, don’t wait to have a power of attorney created. Do it now. It’s an essential part of your estate plan and far too easy to overlook.
Reference: Lancaster Online (May 15, 2019) “Why you’re never too young for a power of attorney”
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