A durable power of attorney is a type of document that identifies and gives power to a person to make decisions for you in the case of incapacity. While a healthcare surrogate makes those decisions as related to medical and end-of-life care, an agent identified in a durable power of attorney document can grant access to financial assets, transfer assets, manage property, and, under some circumstances, sell or mortgage homestead property. The language used in the power of attorney determines what type of decisions the agent will make.
Choosing a power of attorney is an important decision. You might name a spouse, an adult child, or a trusted relative to manage your affairs. It is also possible to name an institutional nominee. Because of the numerous grants of authority, it is possible and advisable to have a living will and a durable power of attorney in your estate plan, often with different people in your life serving in different roles.
One of the reasons why many clients opt for a power of attorney in addition to an advance directive is that these documents are more flexible and apply to more situations. However, certain acts requires very specific grants of authority; thus, the document should be carefully drafted. The scope of the power of attorney is an important consideration, especially if you want your spouse to access assets that cannot be liquidated without joint authorization.
As your estate planning and elder law attorney, I will discuss the options with you about what access you grant to an agent in a durable power of attorney. I will explain the specifics for your state law and we will determine if you need to update any pre-existing documents. We will also discuss how comprehensive your power of attorney needs to be to meet your objectives. Together, we will determine the best documents to include in your estate plan.