What if injury or simply the effects of aging left you unable to make decisions regarding your finances, business affairs or medical care? While it is uncomfortable to consider such possibilities, it is smart to be prepared in case your family faces this type of issue. Having a Palm Desert, California, trust litigation lawyer draft a durable power of attorney as part of your estate plan can make life easier in case of an accident. Read below for more information on durable powers of attorney and estate planning:
What Is a Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney is a written agreement that provides someone you choose the authority to act on your behalf in financial, business or medical affairs. The person chosen to act on your behalf is known as the agent.
In case you become unfit to make your own decisions, you need a durable power of attorney agreement in place for medical care and finances. An agreement remains legally intact if you become mentally or otherwise incapacitated. A non-durable power of attorney, on the hand, becomes void if you pass away or become mentally incapacitated. Limited power of attorney documents can also be created to allow an agent to make specific decisions on your behalf, such as authorizing a car dealer to register a new vehicle for you.
A durable powers of attorney document allows your agent to make decisions and take actions on your behalf. Examples of duties your agent can perform under a legal power of attorney include:
- Pay your bills
- Manage your investments
- Access the money in your bank accounts
- Make medical decisions regarding medications and treatments
- Sign legal documents on your behalf
This is not a comprehensive list of the activities an agent can perform. You can outline specific details or desires in the document. Most people have two separate documents drafted: one for health care issues and one for financial matters. Fortunately, powers of attorney are simple to prepare and are included in most estate plans.
Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney is commonly referred to as a durable power of attorney of health care. If you have this type of document created as part of your estate plan, you name a trusted family member or friend to act on your behalf. This individual is responsible for managing your medical care and making decisions for you if you are unable to do so. In certain California jurisdictions, the person you appoint to act your behalf may be called your health care proxy.
Your health care proxy works with physicians and other medical providers to ensure you receive the type of care you desire. Agents are legally bound to make medical decisions according to your preferences.
Along with a medical power of attorney, some people in Palm Desert, California, choose to have a medical directive or declaration drafted. This document provides specific instructions to your health care proxy. It is sometimes possible to have a power of attorney and health care declaration combined into a single document. This is called an advanced health care directive. Your estate lawyer will help you choose the best document for your situation.
Financial Power of Attorney
A financial power of attorney authorizes someone to handle financial matters on your behalf. Similar to a medical power of attorney, the document names a trusted individual to act as your agent. Some documents are simple and allow agents to perform single transactions on your behalf, while others are comprehensive and give full control to the other individual. A comprehensive financial power of attorney gives your agent the legal right to perform the following duties:
- Manage your retirement accounts
- Deposit your Social Security checks
- File tax returns
- Access your mail and financial records
Once the document is executed, the original document is given to your agent while copies can be filed with the court or with a third-party financial institution in Palm Desert, California as evidence of your agent’s authorities. Depending on how the document is worded, the power of attorney is effective immediately or when a future event such as mental incapacitation occurs.
Durable Powers of Attorney Advantages
One of the main advantages of creating a durable power of attorney is it enables you to talk about your wishes with your agent now. Discussing your needs and desires with your friends and family is an important step to take while you are still fully capable. The terms of your power of attorney should reflect your current needs as well as your future requests. For example, a comprehensive document should detail how your long-term care or government benefits should be handled in the future.
Creating a durable power of attorney can also help you avoid family disputes in the future. A professionally executed document eliminates confusion regarding how your personal affairs should be handled. A document that clearly outlines your wishes regarding your financial matters and your medical care can avoid family disputes if you become legally incompetent.
Revoking a Power of Attorney
In California, revoking a power of attorney document can be accomplished relatively easily, but it should be done carefully and under the direction of a lawyer to avoid any issues regarding validity. Both general and durable power of attorney documents can be revoked.
If you created the original document and you are still mentally fit to make decisions, you can revoke the powers granted in the document for any reason. However, if you are deemed mentally incapacitated and a family member or friend wishes to challenge the document, it is more difficult. Revoking the document requires legal representation and a court proceeding. Powers of attorney are automatically revoked when you pass away.
Contact Bochnewich Law Offices for Help
Located in Palm Desert, California, Bochnewich Law Offices are experienced in many areas of estate planning law, including trust administration, probate, estate litigation and elder law. If you are searching for an experienced lawyer to draft a durable power of attorney on your behalf, we can assist. Contact us today at 866-698-6671 to set up a free estate planning consultation.