Many people believe they have a complete and comprehensive estate plan in place, only to have their unfortunate family members find out otherwise-after it is too late to correct. Perhaps the most important document an individual can put in place now is a comprehensive Power of Attorney document.
A comprehensive power of attorney may include a grant of power for the agent to represent and advocate for the principal in regard to health care decisions. Such health care powers are more commonly addressed in a separate “health care power of attorney,” which may be a distinct document or combined with other health topics in an “advance health care directive.”
Another important preliminary consideration about powers of attorney is “durability.” Powers of attorney are voluntary delegations of authority by the principal (the person signing) to the agent (the person appointed). By signing a Power of Attorney appointment, the principal has not given up his or her own power to make decisions, but has granted legal authority to the agent to also perform various tasks on the principal’s behalf. All states have adopted a “durability” statute that allows principals to make a simple declaration specifying whether that the agent’s authority will become invalid upon the subsequent mental incapacity of the principal. The result is a “durable power of attorney”–a document that continues to be valid until a stated termination date or event occurs, or the principal dies.
To learn more about establishing a comprehensive power of attorney, visit our next blog in the coming days.