When used properly, the Power of Attorney can be a powerful tool for estate planning. However, the Power of Attorney is also one of the most frequently misunderstood of all estate planning documents.
At its most basic, the Power of Attorney is simply a document that authorizes another person to act as your legal representative, specifically if and when you are incapacitated by a medical condition.
To better understand how these documents work, and what role they can play in your estate plan, let’s clear up some of the most common myths surrounding the durable Power of Attorney.
1) The Power of Attorney only becomes effective when you die.
It is often assumed that estate planning documents come into effect upon your death… but with the durable Power of Attorney, the opposite is true. These documents can only be effective when you are living. They go into effect when you become medically incapacitated, or when you authorize them for a temporary, short-term purpose. (For example, you might use a financial Power of Attorney if you need to sign an important real estate document, but are traveling and cannot be reached for a signature.
A financial Power of Attorney is never effective upon your death; in fact, when you die, any Power of Attorney you have drafted immediately becomes obsolete.
2) All Powers of Attorney are created equal.
Actually, there are two very different types of Power of Attorney to be aware of. A financial Power of Attorney allows you to name a representative to make business and financial decisions on your behalf. A medical Power of Attorney, meanwhile, appoints someone to make decisions regarding your healthcare and medical treatment.
3) Your appointed representative can make changes to your estate plan.
This one may qualify as a half-truth.
In some situations, if you have a trust in place, and if the trust has been set up to allow you to make changes, then the legal representative named by your Power of Attorney will have the authority to alter or manipulate the trust.
With that said, you’re the only person who can alter your will. A Power of Attorney does not give anyone the authority to modify this most basic estate planning document.
4) Your Power of Attorney means you’re forfeiting your independence.
A Power of Attorney is meant to ensure that your wishes are fulfilled even if you become incapacitated somehow. Ideally, you will use your Power of Attorney to empower someone you know and trust, and someone who will have your best interests at heart. Additionally, your Power of Attorney can be revoked at any time, and indeed, most Powers of Attorney are set up to be effective only so long as you are incapacitated.
5) You don’t need a Power of Attorney if you are young and healthy.
If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that our health is far more fragile than we think. The simple reality is that you could become injured, or be involved in an accident, or receive a terminal diagnosis at any time, no matter how young and robust you may be. As such, it’s a good idea to think about estate planning, no matter your age.
Ready to talk with a Fremont Power of Attorney lawyer to explore your options? Reach out to an estate planning attorney from Singh Law Firm whenever you’re ready. A Power of Attorney lawyer from our firm is always available to answer your questions and help you make an informed decision regarding your estate planning needs.