Protecting Against Incapacity By Designating Power Of Attorney
Most people think estate planning is only about what happens to their assets when they pass. But a thorough estate plan should also put safeguards in place for the common risks and responsibilities that come with adulthood. One of those risks is incapacity, which can be the inability to make or communicate decisions for yourself, or even the inability to use your hands or leave the house. Incapacity could be the result of medical issues like Alzheimer’s disease, coma, or complications from a stroke, but also inconveniences like breaking your leg or having bilateral carpal tunnel surgery. Even young people might become incapacitated, and might need parents, a friend, or a significant other to manage their financial and legal affairs.
Long before you ever face such a difficult challenge, you can designate a trusted individual (or numerous individuals) to make important financial and legal decisions on your behalf. When you contact Wolf, Baldwin & Associates, P.C., our attorneys will answer any questions you may have about appointing an agent under a power of attorney, and help you create a customized plan to protect yourself in the event of incapacity.
You Decide Which Powers To Designate
As someone granting power of attorney (PoA), you are considered the “principal,” while the person acting on your behalf will be the “agent.” Your agent will legally be allowed to act on your behalf, but you get to decide the limits of those actions.
For instance, you can specify that your power of attorney can do the following on your behalf:
- Access your bank accounts and other assets to pay your bills
- File tax returns
- Create a trust for your benefit
- Buy and sell real estate and other property
- Operate your business
- Manage your insurance plans, retirement accounts, and investments
- Decide that a different living arrangement is necessary, such as a nursing home
You can also designate an agent under a medical power of attorney for decisions related to health care and end-of-life care. This is usually done in tandem with the creation of a living will.
Why A Power Of Attorney Is So Important
People creating an estate plan will commonly designate an agent under a general “durable” power of attorney. Durable means that it survives incapacity. In most cases, Powers of Attorney are immediately effective and do not “spring” into being once someone has become incapacitated.
The idea of giving someone this much control over your life can be scary. But choosing someone to be your agent is preferable to the alternative. If you were to become incapacitated without a designated agent under a PoA, the court would need to appoint a guardian to fulfill essentially the same duties. You would not get to choose who would serve as the guardian, and the legal process for seeking guardianship is expensive, stressful, and time-consuming. It is typically far wiser to designate an agent under a power of attorney than to be declared incompetent by a court so that the court can appoint a guardian.
We Are Here To Provide Answers And Assistance – Contact Us Today
With offices in Pottstown, Pennsburg, West Chester, and Reading, Pennsylvania, Wolf, Baldwin & Associates, P.C. serves clients throughout southeastern Pennsylvania. Our experienced and attentive attorneys will discuss your legal needs with you, answer your questions, and help you create an estate plan to protect you and those you love. To schedule your initial consultation, we welcome you to call us at 610-228-4582 or to submit an online contact form.