A power of attorney is an essential component of any estate plan, and ensuring you have one suited for your needs will protect your interests and can help avoid many potential legal issues. However, despite this, some people express doubts regarding the concept of a power of attorney. Here are five important reasons you should get a power of attorney:
- It can ensure your bills are paid
- One of the biggest advantages to a power of attorney is that it can ensure your bills will continue to be paid if you become unable to handle your personal affairs yourself. This is because it grants someone else the ability to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf, including accessing your accounts to pay off any bills you owe. Without this, you may find yourself falling behind on your bills if you become seriously ill or injured and have not given someone the authority to properly assist you.
- You can put your affairs in the hands of someone you trust
- Another important reason to get a power of attorney is you can ensure that all of your personal matters will be handled by someone you personally trust. This is because it allows you to choose who you grant your power of attorney to, ensuring only those you trust with that responsibility will handle your affairs. The primary alternative to a power of attorney is a guardianship proceeding, where a court determines who will wind up making important decisions on your behalf and takes that decision out of your hands.
- You can avoid a guardianship
- In the absence of a power of attorney, a guardianship may be filed either by one of your relatives or a medical facility providing you with long-term care if you become incapacitated by illness, injury, or some other issue. This guardian is selected by the court, and may not be the person whom you would select if you were able. If there is a contest between family members as to who should be your guardian, or if your family members decline to step up to help you, the Court may appoint a non-family member, such as an attorney, who you very likely would not personally know. As a result, in a guardianship you will have no control over who is handling your personal affairs should you become incapacitated.
- You can tailor your power of attorney to your needs
- A power of attorney is a broad document, and can be tailored by a skilled lawyer to suit your personal needs. For example, you may only want a power of attorney to apply to narrow circumstances with strict limits on how it can be used. For example, New Jersey law does not permit an attorney-in-fact to make gifts of your property to anyone unless a power of attorney specifically allows that. Alternatively, you can grant broad authority to someone else to ensure you do not need to revisit the power of attorney later to expand your attorney-in-fact’s authority because of circumstances you did not anticipate.
- Additionally, a power of attorney may be “durable” or “springing”. A “durable” power of attorney will take effect immediately and remains effective if and when you become incapacitated. A “springing” power of attorney does not take effect until a condition you specify occurs, which most commonly will be the written evaluations by two doctors who declare you unfit to govern your own affairs.
- You can make it a part of a larger estate plan
- A power of attorney is ultimately only one document, albeit a very important one. A power of attorney is commonly prepared or updated alongside a Last Will and Testament as well as an Advanced Healthcare Directive for medical decision making. In order to ensure all your matters are properly handled in the event of incapacity, you should speak to a lawyer with experience handling estate law matters. They can assist you with determining what would be best for you and your family, so you are prepared for anything that may happen.
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Hunziker, Jones, and Sweeney understand that the aging population has specific and diverse needs. The firm helps seniors and their families by handling all aspects of elder law including guardianships, end of life planning, asset preservation, Medicaid planning, and trusts and estates issues. If you need to consult on elder law issues, call The Law Offices of Hunziker, Jones & Sweeney at (973) 256-0456 or fill out our contact form for a consultation.