If you don’t take care of it beforehand, if you don’t exercise a little foresight and forethought, everything will be taken out of you and your family’s hands. The courts will swoop in and take over. So it makes eminent sense to have a power of attorney before you actually need it.
Very broadly speaking, with a power of attorney (POA), you grant to another person the legal power to handle your affairs in the event (usually owing to some kind of incapacitation) you are no longer able to do so yourself. So anyone who wishes to allow someone else to perform certain legal tasks on her behalf needs a POA. But this is just the genus, and there are several species of POA within the broad genus.
Some kinds of powers of attorney may be needed only for specific situations or contingencies. Still, it’s a good idea to have the powers of attorney that meet your needs in place now so that you are prepared no matter when or what kind of emergency arises that calls for a POA. And, today, the POA is evolving into a vital mechanism that people can use to grant authority to specific professionals with specialized skills to operate for them in, say, legal, financial, and business matters that require specialized expertise and specific knowledge.
A POA, then, is no longer only for a person reaching advanced age who fears he may not keep his mental faculties much longer. It really isn’t a tool for last-resort situations. It is, rather, a pretty flexible instrument that can assist you in both quotidian affairs and complex legal matters.
Whatever your reasons for wanting a POA and for whatever purpose, you really shouldn’t delay. The fact is a POA arrangement can’t be set up for emergency, spur-of-the-moment situations.
So if, suppose, you suddenly become (mentally) incapacitated and you don’t have a POA in place, a court will step in to appoint a guardian or conservator. And in that case, neither you nor your family has any control over who is appointed. The likely outcome is that control of your estate will be taken entirely out of your family’s hands.
Further, in some states, the appointed guardian must post a bond and file a detailed inventory of your assets. Not only is this a complicated procedure, but it is also costly and very public.
There are, as we mentioned, various kinds of powers of attorney. Let’s examine a few of them:
Conventional POA – Probably what most people think of, this kind of POA gives your agent (the person designated to act on your behalf) whatever authority you have granted in the legal document. It’s very important, then, to state exactly and clearly what power(s) you are giving your agent. (Choosing a trustworthy agent is another crucial matter as well.)
Durable POA – Like a conventional POA, a durable POA begins when it is signed, but unlike a conventional POA, it remains in effect for a lifetime (unless you cancel it). The popularity of this one lies in the fact it allows you (the principal) to manage things fairly inexpensively and easily.
Springing POA – This kind of POA is designed for specific contingencies when specific events occur – usually a specific kind of incapacitation.
Medical POA – This is usually a durable POA for healthcare decisions with aspects of the springing POA incorporated. Also, some these are written such that they end when the incapacitating condition (the triggering event of the POA) ends.
Obviously, then, a power of attorney, as well as the process of selecting and setting up the right kind(s), isn’t as simple as it seems on the face of it.
At Legacy Law Group of Northern Virginia, we are specialists in estate planning, especially with respect to estate tax and gift tax. Our goal is to help you protect and preserve your assets and facilitate a smooth, effective transfer. Just call us at (703) 492-9955 or contact us using our contact form for more information.