Why do I need a durable power of attorney?
If you become ill or injured, someone else must step in to help you care for your finances. With a durable power of attorney, you name a trusted person to pay bills, make bank deposits, collect benefits, and handle other money matters on your behalf. Without this important document, your loved ones will have to go to court to get a conservatorship to manage your financial affairs.
Who makes decisions for me under a durable power of attorney?
The person you name to make decisions for you is called your agent. Any competent adult can serve as your agent. This should be someone you trust, who is honest, possesses common sense and is dependable. We strongly recommend choosing someone who is relatively nearby to manage the practical aspects of helping you with your finances. You should also choose a back-up agent, in case your primary agent is unavailable or unable to help you.
When does my durable power of attorney take effect?
We recommend that your power of attorney take effect as soon as you sign it. This is why the document is called a ‘durable power of attorney.’ If you don’t, it will automatically end if you become incapacitated, and the court will need to appoint a conservator in order for your friends or family to access and manage your finances.
If you only want your agent to have access to your finances upon your incapacity, you can create a ‘springing durable power of attorney.’ This usually requires certification of your incapacity by two doctors. This can add time to the process and delay your agent’s access to your finances.
When does my durable power of attorney end?
A durable power of attorney automatically ends at your death. You can also revoke your power of attorney at any time that you are alive, as long as you are mentally competent. If you get divorced and your spouse is your agent, your power of attorney is automatically terminated. Other situations, although rare, where your power of attorney ends happens when the court invalidates the document or if no agent is available. To avoid the problem of lack of available agent, we strongly recommend that you designate at least one back-up agent.
What Should I Consider When Choosing An Agent For My Power Of Attorney?
- What is the relationship of your potential agent with your other loved ones? Will that person have a difficult time dealing with your spouse, your children, other family members? If that person is a spouse or child, can they carry out your wishes, despite what other family members and interested parties may want them to do?
- Does the person you are considering have a spouse who will try to control their actions regarding the decisions that need to be made for you or will they be supportive?
- Does your potential agent have problem-solving skills? Is he or she able to compromise when necessary, but stand firm on your wishes?
- Does your potential agent have the ability and the desire to ensure your needs and wishes come first—above their own financial issues or personal beliefs—when making decisions regarding your care?
- If your potential agent will eventually inherit from your estate, does it make sense to put that person in charge of managing your finances and your care?