ESTATE PLANNING BASICS: What is a Power of Attorney and When Do You Need It?

Part 1 of a series breaking down the process of helping clients set up Powers of Attorney for finances by breaking the issues down into smaller, individual topics, enabling the adviser and client to take the necessary steps, and get the plan moving. 

Powers of attorney are a means by which one person (the “Principal”) gives another person (the “Agent” or “Attorney-in-fact”) the power and authority to act on his/her behalf. The power can be limited to specific matters (such as a purchase or signing a tax return) or time (while you are overseas or for a fixed period of time). It can also be a general power, meaning the attorney-in-fact can do pretty much anything the principal could do. In each case, the attorney-in-fact has a fiduciary duty to act in the Principal’s best interest.

Powers of attorney are powerful documents. With a general power, where the Attorney-in-fact can do whatever the Principal can do, it facilitates the continuation of one’s affairs. If the power is “durable,” it remains in effect if the Principal becomes incompetent. This is where the utility of the Power of Attorney becomes most clear. The Attorney-in-fact acts as an informal guardian but there is no necessity of having the Principal’s competence played out in public in a guardianship proceeding.

For a person who has difficulty getting out, whether because of physical limitations or even something as simple as difficult weather conditions, consider how useful it can be to have someone handle the banking needs or making living arrangements on that person’s behalf.

You can view the first series of Wills and Probate Administration here and reach out to Dan with any questions.

In our next installment, we will address the risks that must be considered when establishing a Power of Attorney.

Our attorneys are always ready, willing, and able to meet and discuss any questions, help you articulate your plan and goals, determine the best plan to accomplish them, and then implement it. You will find that, by taking those small bites, the problem that used to lead to procrastination and uncertainty has been addressed and resolved. Learn more about Mansour Gavin’s Estate Planning & Probate group or contact us today. 

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