Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Do You Need a Durable Power of Attorney?

The short answer - Yes. You do need a durable power of attorney.

Regardless of whether you have a lot of money or no money, every adult needs a durable power of attorney. Let's call it a POA. Why? Because you need someone to look out for you and your affairs if you were to become incapacitated. Now, if you do not have a POA and you are mentally incompetent, your family can go to the court and ask that the court appoint a Conservator for you. Unfortunately, this takes time and money and will only add to the burden your family is facing in light of your incapacity. Also, you essentially give up all control of your life by allowing the court to appoint a Conservator rather than you choosing your preferred agent through a POA.

In a POA, you select an agent so that your family can continue as normally as possible while you are incapacitated. Your attorney should also make sure you have alternate choices for your POA. For example, suppose you and your spouse are both in a car accident and sadly, the love of your life dies. You are in a coma from the accident but you trusted your spouse as your agent on your POA. You need at least two preferably three different alternate agents to address this type of situation.

A typical POA will give the agent the ability to handle all of your financial affairs. Bank accounts, real estate, life insurance, safe deposit box access, bills, Social Security benefits - everything should be covered in the POA to ensure that your and your family's standard of living continues.

Whether you just need a simple will or a more complicated trust, a good estate planning attorney will include a durable power of attorney in your estate plan.

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