Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is a written document which gives a person of your choice the authority to take actions or make decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. You choose the person you want to help you – called the attorney – and decide what powers the Attorney should have. A power of attorney is a legal document that gives another person the power to make important decisions for you, including paying your bills, signing contract, and managing your assets in bank accounts, retirement accounts, insurance, etc. This person will have the authority to manage your financial and personal welfare. A lawyer drafts this important estate document for you after learning your individual wishes.
4 Risks of Not Naming a POA
An accident or illness can happen at any time. Sometimes, incapacitation is just a matter of becoming older. Other times, it can happen as a shock after a physically traumatic event. No guarantee protects you from becoming incapacitated, and nothing predicts an incapacitating event. The key is to protect yourself in case it ever happens to you.
Consider for one moment who would manage your life if you had an emergency hospitalization lasting weeks or months. If you don’t have someone named as a POA, your incapacitation could upset your entire life, family, and business.
1. The Lengthy Process of Petitioning the Orphan’s Court
If you do not have a power of attorney before your incapacitation, your loved one will have to battle grief and fight for your legal guardianship. They will have to petition the Orphan’s Court for a legal guardianship, which could take months. This lengthy and public process is both expensive and embarrassing for the family. The judge must rule that you cannot take care of yourself. This ruling becomes public record and may even be published in a local newspaper.
2. Loss of Guardianship
Worst of all, someone you do not trust could petition to become your guardian, and their petition could be granted. The guardian gains control over your life and assets. Although they may be required to file reports with the court, rarely does the court have the time or money to oversee your interests. An untrustworthy guardian will likely mismanage your money and neglect your medical care with little accountability.
3. No One Can Make Important Decisions.
During the wait for guardianship assignment, no one will be able to access your bank accounts. At first, that might make you feel safe, but consider that no one will be able to sign for appropriate care for you, whether a nursing home or rehabilitation center. Without a POA in place, a number of problems could arise in your small business, your insurance, your mortgage, your home, your credit. If you have minor children, they could end up in foster care.
4. No Automatic Power of Attorney.
Even if you are married when you become incapacitated, your spouse is not automatically your power of attorney. If you have accounts in your name only, your spouse cannot access those accounts. Your spouse cannot sign you up for insurance or speak to someone at your insurance company if they are not the policy holder. If the mortgage is in your name only, your spouse may not be able to see your statements or important notices. If you own a business, and your spouse is not a co-owner, your spouse cannot lead the company in your absence. In many places, if you co-own property, the property cannot be sold without the signature of both owners.
3 Reasons to Name a Power of Attorney
An estate lawyer can help you create a power of attorney that avoids many of the issues with becoming incapacitated. A power of attorney can contract on your behalf, pay your bills, and deposit and withdraw money from your accounts. They can make sure that your assets are protected and being managed efficiently. Your POA effectively stands in your place while you are unable to manage your affairs.
The Power of Choice
Creating a power of attorney with a lawyer also gives you the freedom of choice. You choose who to name. Whether you choose your spouse, a child, a close family member, or a trusted friend, the person you choose ensures that you are cared for during your incapacitation. If you later regain capacity, you do not have to ask a court to give you control of your life back. You can request that your agent returns the power of attorney or revokes the power of attorney.
An experienced lawyer can also help you create a limited power of attorney. You have the choice regarding what powers your agent will have. A power of attorney lawyer will advise you of what the impact of granting different powers will be, and help you decide which are important for your agent to have. In many cases, you will not want to limit your agent’s power, but the choice is always up to you.
Drafting your own power of attorney without a lawyer can result in complicated problems. Your homemade document may not carry any legal weight. Hospitals, businesses, and government may not accept these power of attorney documents. The benefit of working with a lawyer ensures that you and your assets will be protected if you become incapacitated.
Contact Kraemer, Manes & Associates LLC for a power of attorney. You never know when you could become incapacitated and you need to make sure that there will be somewhere there to look out for you in case the unexpected happens.
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Kraemer, Manes & Associates LLC “KM&A” is a law firm serving all of Pennsylvania with our principal offices in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Call KM&A in western Pennsylvania at 412-626-5626 or in eastern Pennsylvania at 215-618-9185. KM&A can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.