What is a Power of Attorney (PoA)?
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.
Why Everyone Should Have a Power of Attorney
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. There is no way to guarantee that you will never become incapacitated, and there is no way to predict an incapacitating event. But there is a way to protect yourself in case it 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 do not have a power of attorney, your loved one will have to go through quite an ordeal to gain those same powers in addition to the grief they feel from your incapacitation. 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. They will have to ask the judge to rule that you cannot take care of yourself. If a judge rules that this is the case, this will become public record and may even be published in a local newspaper.
Worst of all, someone you do not trust could petition to become your guardian, and their petition could be granted. The guardian then would have control over your life and assets. Although they may be required to file reports with the court, rarely does the court have the time and money to really be able to look after your interests. This person could be mismanaging your money and neglecting your medical care with little accountability. If you later regain capacity, you have to petition the court to have the guardianship removed.
During that time, no one will be able to access your bank accounts. No one will be able to sign a contract for you, which you may need if you are going to enter a nursing home or rehabilitation center. Your small business may go under if no one has the authority to make decisions in your place. Your insurance may lapse, leading to astronomical medical bills. Your mortgage may not be paid, and you may lose your home. Your credit could by destroyed. If you have minor children, they could end up in foster care if you have not appointed someone to look after them when you are incapacitated.
Even if you are married when you become incapacitated, your spouse does not have all of the powers that a power of attorney grants. 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 your own business, and your spouse is not a co-owner, your spouse cannot take over leading the company in your absence. In many places, if you co-own property, the property cannot be sold without the signature of both owners.
An estate lawyer can help you create a power of attorney that avoids many of the issues with becoming incapacitated. A power of attorney gives your agent the ability to 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 agent effectively stands in your place while you are unable to manage your affairs.
Creating a power of attorney with a lawyer also gives you the freedom of choice. Unlike the guardianship process, which begins after you become incapacitated, you choose who to name as your agent in a power of attorney. Whether you choose your spouse, a child, a close family member, or a trusted friend, the person you choose will be able to ensure that you are fully 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 simply ask your agent to return the power of attorney, or revoke the power of attorney.
Rely on an Estate Lawyer to Create Your 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.
It is dangerous to draft your own power of attorney without a lawyer. It is common that people accidentally create a document that does nothing. Hospitals, businesses, and government may not accept these power of attorney documents. It is important to contact a lawyer to draft a power of attorney so that you know 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.
Last Will & Testament
- Estate plans kept private
- Asset customization
- Select who inherits
- Select care for minor children or pets
- Administrator choice
- Digital life protection
- Avoids family disputes
- End-of life issues
- Advance directives
- Caregivers’ resources
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- Hospice care
- Life support / artificial nourishment
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Power Of Attorney
- Avoids guardianship
- Prevents costly delays
- Prevents questions about intent
- Protects financial abuse
- Allows agent to talk to other agencies
- Allows agent to perform transactions
- Special/springing power of attorney
- Avoids medical planning
Golden Estate Package
- Comprehensive protections
- Continuity of documents
- KM&A administrator
- Dedicated attorney
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- Fewer document updates required
- Best available protection
- Better value