A power of attorney (POA) is a document that gives another person the legal ability and permission to represent you in different legal and medical matters. You’ll appoint an agent, who will handle matters on your behalf if you are unable to. The agent acts on your behalf and in your best interest in legal, healthcare and other matters.
There are different types of POAs that are different purposes and the type of POA will depend on what you need the agent to do:
- General POA, which allows someone to handle any type of legal or medical matter
- Special or limited POA, which limits the individual’s authority in some way, such as for a single transaction or a specific period of time.
- Medical POA, which allows an agent to make specific healthcare decisions for another individual when they are unable to do so. This medical POA usually goes into effect when physician declares someone incapacitated.
- “Springing” POA, which takes effect after a particular documented event occurs, such as sudden illness or incapacitation.
- “Durable” POA, which continues after the individual is ruled to be incapacitated.
Banks and other financial institutions you deal with may have their own power of attorney forms. It may be best to fill them out as well as having your own. Some banks may not accept your personal POA, so it may be a good idea to execute their forms for the accounts that you hold. This will ensure that your agent has access to your accounts as intended.
Don’t sign these forms without discussing them with your attorney first, to ensure that everything is done correctly and your agent is not restricted from dealing with any of your assets.
The time to enact powers of attorney for your spouse, children or other agents that you wish to assign responsibility to is now, before you are unable to do so. This is especially important if you have a healthcare condition that could result in incapacity, such as a stroke or dementia. Once you have been declared incompetent, it will be too late to assign any powers of attorney.
Without powers of attorney set up ahead of time, your spouse or other relatives will have to initiate a guardianship proceeding to handle your affairs for you. He or she is appointed as a guardian with a court order, which takes about six months. Only then will your loved ones and agents be able to manage your affairs, make healthcare decisions for you, and see to it that your wishes are carried out.
You can also use a power of attorney to name a guardian in case proceedings become necessary. Although the court generally appoints a guardian, but many courts will abide by the guardian you select in the durable power of attorney.
Guardianship proceedings take a lot of time. It’s also expensive, and will also cost money that your family could be using for you.
Having a properly executed power of attorney (or more than one) is an affordable, easier and safe way to ensure that your healthcare will be properly taken care of, and that your wishes will be carried out as you intended.
Beware Of The DIY Power Of Attorney
Assigning a power of attorney is giving another individual control over part or all of your life in the even that you are incapacitated, or otherwise unable to take care of your own affairs. But buying “off-the-shelf” DIY POAs may not be the best for your needs. This generic solution takes a “one size fits all” approach to a very serious and potentially difficult situation.
The POA sets and assigns the agent’s powers, which can include healthcare decisions, financial decisions, distribution of monies and properties. Without an attorney’s guidance, you could be making a mistake that can cost your family a considerable amount of money.
Get Help From Chicago’s Estate Planning Attorney
An estate planning attorney can help with financial advice as well as advising you on your power of attorney so your heirs can benefit as much as possible.
With more than 20 years of experience helping hundreds of individuals with their estate plans throughout Chicago, James C. Provenza & Associates will work with you and develop the estate plan that works best for your beneficiaries, and takes care of your estate and ensures your wishes are carried out.
To speak with Chicago attorney James C. Provenza, call our law firm today at (847) 729-3939.