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Powers of Attorney: What you need to know

Many people associate the term estate planning with the process of distributing assets and property after death. However, an important part of estate planning also centers on helping an individual account for and manage important financial and health care matters while still living.

You may wonder why it's necessary to put your wishes and directives related to medical and financial decisions into writing. With an estimated one out of every three elderly adults dying with some form of dementia, the reality is that the day may come when you are no longer able to effectively communicate or make decisions about your day-to-day finances or care.

What Are Powers Of Attorney?

By executing a document known as a power of attorney, you provide an individual with the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf. Powers of attorney can be named to handle matters related to your finances, medical care and business operations. The following are some of the duties that may be carried out by a power of attorney:

  • Pay bills and taxes
  • Make financial gifts on one's behalf
  • Manage investment and retirement accounts
  • Access medical records
  • Make decisions related to starting or stopping medical treatments
  • Ensure that a living will's directives are followed

The individual who you name as power of attorney has a fiduciary duty to always act in your best interests. There are also specific provisions that must be included in a power of attorney document and requirements that must be met with regard to how it is executed. If mistakes are made with how a power of attorney document is drafted or executed, it may be deemed invalid. It's important, therefore, to always seek the advice and assistance of an attorney.

Who Should Be Your Power Of Attorney?

While anyone who is over the age of 18 can legally act as a power of attorney, numerous factors should be taken into consideration when making this important decision. You want to select someone who is not only smart and good with money or knowledgeable about health care matters, but also someone that you feel you can trust and who will consider and investigate issues before making decisions on your behalf.

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