As we grow older, we may need a little more help from our loved ones to get things accomplished. We may need help with common financial decisions, we may need assistance with medical issues, and help to do simple daily tasks, such as eating, drinking, and getting dressed.
Seniors need help from a variety of people: family members, professional caregivers, lawyers, doctors, or other professionals. However, in order to allow someone to act for you, you will need a general power of attorney document. But what is this document and how can it help you? Let's take a look:
What is the power of attorney document?
The power of attorney is the legal document where you (called the principal) designate another person (called the agent or attorney-in-fact) to act on your behalf. The power of attorney document authorizes the agent to make a broad or a limited broader set of decisions on your behalf. Of course, you can decide the types of decisions that can be made, depending on your needs and the terms of the document. The individual designated to act in this way is also known as the “power of attorney”.
There are various types of power of attorney documents. The most common type is the conventional or the general power of attorney. A durable power of attorney documents lasts for a lifetime unless you cancel it. On the other hand, a springing power of attorney document comes into action only during or after specific events. There's also a medical power of attorney document which lets a person make medical decisions on your behalf. A guardianship power of attorney document is also available, which lets you choose who can take decisions on your behalf.
How does the power of attorney document work?
There are many reasons why a person would need a power of attorney document. For starters, the person who is the principal of the power of attorney must be at least 18. Secondly, there are various reasons why you should get a power of attorney. For instance, a person serving in the military might need this legal document before being deployed to a warzone. This document will offer protection in case they become incapacitated, as the agent can make medical or financial decisions.
The risk of becoming incapacitated is one of the key reasons why people choose to get a power of attorney document. However, there are other reasons as well. For instance, expatriate workers and families often get a power of attorney to get protection in case anything goes wrong. Similarly, young people who are traveling frequently get the power of attorney documents so that someone can handle their affairs while absent. However, power of attorney documents is most commonly established for senior citizens who may face a serious, debilitating, or life-threatening crisis.
If you have a power of attorney document, and you become incapacitated mentally or physically, the agent or attorney-in-fact can make financial decisions on your behalf. For instance, they can pay your bills, take steps to set up Medicaid for you or handle your financial issues with your bank. Similarly, depending on the provisions listed in the guardianship power of attorney, the agent can authorize various banking transactions, such as real estate transactions, deal with retirement benefits or government agencies, or can handle healthcare billing.
How to get a power of attorney document
The main thing to consider before getting a power of attorney is to have a reliable person that can act as the agent. This person should be a person you trust and who knows what your particular needs are. Then, you must decide what the agent can do on your behalf and in what circumstances. For instance, you can include specific provisions that the agent can only act on your behalf if you are incapacitated and only in financial matters. On the other hand, you can have a general power of attorney, where the agent has more power.
Keep in mind that some powers of attorney documents are limited. For example, you can have a power of attorney document that has provisions only on real estate matters. In this case, the agent can represent you during a real estate transaction, but cannot make medical decisions.
Who can set up a power of attorney?
Anyone can be a principal in a guardianship power of attorney document. The main thing to consider is the state you live in. Typically, the power of attorney must be executed according to the laws that are active in your state. Keep in mind that the powers of attorney are very different. There is no uniform document that is valid in every state. For example, Pennsylvania has a law that makes every power of attorney document durable.
A power of attorney should always be done by an attorney specialized in this type of work. Since POAs can be questioned by the financial institution, make sure you always work with an experienced lawyer. Select an attorney that knows the state laws, your requirements, and what type of problems can occur when a power of attorney is invoked. Also, a good attorney will know how to write the document, making every provision clear, and mentioning every responsibility you want to convey.
You have to have full mental capacity when the power of attorney document is drawn up. You must fully understand the effects, the nature, and the consequences of this document. Unfortunately, this means that an already incapacitated person cannot get a power of attorney document. This detail is important for people who want to get a POA for their elderly parents who are already incapacitated. Keep in mind that this is not possible.
What happens if you don't have a power of attorney
POAs are reassuring – this is their main advantage. They are the ideal instruments to protect your interests, your health, and the manner of dying. If you do not have a good POA, your family will likely go into costly and time-consuming delays. What's more, your well-being may suffer because of the associated risks – delays in payments, delays in medical decisions, or delays in real estate transactions.
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