Once you are secure in the knowledge that you’ve provided for your family and ensured that your wishes for the distribution of your hard-earned fortune are clear, it’s time to take steps to ensure that YOU will be protected and financially secure during your lifetime. It is not uncommon for seniors to need help with the finer details of their finances as they age, or in rarer circumstances for someone who is injured or incapacitated to require an agent to make financial decisions for them. A Power Of Attorney is the document that gives your chosen agent permission to make choices on your behalf, as well as giving instructions as to how those choices should be made.
Here are some of the most important things you should know about your Power of Attorney:
- A Power of Attorney is only effective during your lifetime; it gives your agent (or attorney-in-fact) the power to act for you while you are alive.
- A Power of Attorney can be created to go into effect immediately or only become effective when you become incapacitated. This latter Power of Attorney is called a Springing Power of Attorney because it “springs” into effect once it is proven that the predetermined conditions (generally incapacity of you, the principal) have been met.
- A Power of Attorney can be revoked at any time so long as you have mental capacity.
- A Power of Attorney is for financial and legal issues only. A health care agent is appointed in a separate document (to be discussed in our next blog post.)
Because your Power of Attorney grants your agent-in-fact such broad powers it is of the utmost importance to choose an agent who will not only be able to make wise decisions for you, but who will also have your best interests at heart. While a Power of Attorney does grant an agent very broad powers, there are ways to build a system of checks and balances into the document; some of these include requiring your agent to keep detailed records and present these records to the principal (you) or other named individuals, or using restrictive language in the document itself which sets limits on the agent’s power.