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Imagine that something happens in your world either by choice or accident where you are not in a position to make an important and critical decision. This is when it is necessary to have prepared for the possibility of appointing a person to serve as your primary decision maker. Known as a Power of Attorney, it is an important part of lifetime planning and is valid in every state. Preparing these documents is also part of my estate planning practice and something that I work with my clients closely on so that they are clear of the implications surrounding this decision and understand the situations where it might be necessary for that appointed person to act.

Simply put, these documents give one or more persons the power to act on your behalf. The power may be limited to a particular activity (e.g., closing the sale of your home) or general in its application. It may take effective immediately or only upon the occurrence of a future event (e.g., a determination that you are unable to act for yourself). The latter are “springing” powers of attorney. It may give temporary or continuous, permanent authority to act on your behalf.

The person named in a power of attorney is commonly referred to as your “agent” or “attorney-in-fact.” With a valid power of attorney, your agent can take any action permitted in the document.

Why would anyone give such sweeping authority to another person? One answer is convenience. If you are buying or selling assets and do not wish to appear in person to close the transaction, you may take advantage of a power of attorney. Another important reason to use power of attorney is to prepare for situations when you may not be able to act on your own behalf due to absence or incapacity. Such a disability may be temporary (e.g., due to travel, accident, or illness) or it may be permanent.

If you do not have a power of attorney and become unable to manage your personal or business affairs, it may become necessary for a court to appoint one or more people to act for you. People appointed in this manner are referred to as guardians, conservators, or committees, depending upon your local state law. If a court proceeding, sometimes known as intervention, is needed, than you may not have the ability to choose the person who will act for you. With A power of attorney, you choose who will act and define their authority and its limits, if any.

This is an important decision and should not be taken lightly. My consultation with you will always include a discussion that includes this topic and as with any other area of my practice I am committed to making sure you fully understand every angle of these issues so you can make the best possible decisions for you and your family.

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