Power of Attorney–An Important Document for You
By E. Garrett Gummer, III, Esquire (CELA)
While your will lets you appoint the person, your executor, who will be responsible for the disposition of your assets after death, a durable power of attorney lets you appoint the person, your agent, who will manage your financial and medical affairs if you become disabled or incapacitated during your life.
You can give your agent many powers, including, but not limited to, the power to pay bills, make gifts, make bank deposits, buy and sell real estate and securities, sign income tax returns, begin a legal claim, make important medical decisions, and authorize your admission to a medical or nursing facility.
If you or a loved one becomes disabled or incapacitated and there is no power of attorney in place, then the court will have to appoint a guardian to care for you and manage your affairs. This process is expensive, because both your attorney and physician are involved, and a court hearing is required. Upon the court’s appointment of a guardian, you will lose certain legal rights to act on your own behalf, and the guardian will be empowered to act for you.
You may revoke the powers given to your agent at any time. Since your agent must have actual knowledge of the revocation of the power of attorney for it to be valid, the revocation should be in writing and presented personally or sent via certified mail to your agent. Also, upon your death, your power of attorney will terminate upon actual notice to your agent.
Taking the time to prepare your power of attorney now while you are healthy and able to do so will make the process easier for your relatives and loved ones, who will be responsible for managing your financial and medical affairs in the event of your disability or incapacity. Without a durable power of attorney, the court may become involved in your affairs.
Mr. Gummer is a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation.
Published: November 2013