The Importance of Having a Power of Attorney: How can it help you in a time of crisis
Given the current public health crisis, many people are giving thought to preparing a trust or will, however, also very important to your estate plan is having a proper power of attorney. Below is a set of questions and answers that help explain the operation and utility of a power of attorney.
What is a power of attorney?
A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that allows another person, your “agent”, to act on your behalf with regard to your financial affairs. The POA allows you to choose which particular powers you give to your agent and which you do not. In the event you become sick and cannot handle your financial affairs, your agent can handle them for you.
Who should I pick as my agent?
People generally choose their spouse or a trusted family member or friend. You may also choose a successor if your first agent is unavailable. You may also pick more than one person to act at one time; however, you must choose if they need to act together or can act separately.
Why is having a POA important?
If your POA is “durable”, it will allow your agent to handle your affairs in the event you are no longer able to do so due to accident, illness, or other cause. Without a POA, someone would need to be appointed as a Guardian of your property by a court, which can be a complex and contentious process.
Can I revoke my POA?
POAs are revocable at any time. You should seek legal assistance to make your revocation effective, because a financial institution may still honor your POA if they haven’t received proper notice of its revocation.
Does my agent have to sign the POA?
Yes, for the agent to have the ability to act, they must also sign the POA. The agent’s signature is an acknowledgment that they understand that they must act in your best interest.
I have a POA from ten years ago—is it still valid?
As long as the POA was properly executed on a valid form at the time, the POA is still valid today. You should consider doing a new POA, however, because the statutory form changed in September 2010, and the new form is most recognized by financial institutions.
Can someone review the actions of my agent?
You may pick a “monitor” for your agent who will have the authority to watch over your agent’s actions. If the monitor believes the agent has done something inappropriate, then they can bring an action in court against the agent.
What if I don’t have a POA?
If you don’t have a POA, the attorneys at O’Connell and Aronowitz would be happy to assist you in putting one in place. You may contact Matthew J. Dorsey, Esq. of our Trusts and Estates Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or 518-694-5656.