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Help to understand how to use a Power of Attorney document to let someone manage your affairs when you no longer can. You'll find explanations, tips, support, and many related pages and resources to help you.

What Is Power Of Attorney?

As we get older, we become less able to manage our own affairs, due to various illnesses and the aging process.  This is not a comfortable issue for thought, but we must, at some point, give other people the authority and responsibility to take care of our personal business.  Power of Attorney is the authority you give another to manage your affairs for you, documented, signed by you, and notarized so they have full legal authority to do your business.  It is very important to get legal advice from a lawyer licensed in your State before signing any Power Of Attorney Form, to make sure the wording is in keeping with your State's laws and to make sure you understand what you're signing.  Power of Attorney can be granted for a specific task, like buying land or, for a range of tasks, like health care decisions.  To help you get all the detail you need, here are the latest top-selling books about power of attorney.  The Power of Attorney works well in conjunction with a will or a living trust.  The will or trust is for after you pass on...the Power of Attorney, for before.  For more information on living trusts and wills, see our page Living Trust Basics-Advantages.  On this page, we'll cover Powers of Attorney that are commonly used to cover our needs as we get older.

Power Of Attorney for Legal and Financial Matters:  This Power of Attorney goes by different names depending on what State you live in.  The document identifies you in legal terms, contains at least one "Attorney-in-Fact" to serve as your agent, defines exactly what you authorize your agent to do, and sets the criteria under which your authorization becomes effective.  If you're working with a Living Trust as your basic document, make sure your Attorney-in-Fact and alternate agents are in the same order as your Alternate Trustees in the Trust, to prevent confusion between the documents.  Make sure all the legal and financial matters you want to delegate are listed in the document, to eliminate the possibility of misunderstanding.  This can include Real Property, Personal Property, Stocks, Binds, Commodities, Banking, Business Operating, Insurance, Annuities, Estate, Trust, Claims, Litigation, Personal and Family Maintenance, Benefits from Government Programs or Services and Tax Matters.  Include everything you think may need to be managed when you can't.  When setting the criteria for authorizing your agent, if you feel they can be trusted, why not just give them the authority upon your signing the document, to keep it simple?  If they're like me, they won't do any of it unless they have to or you ask them to.   If you're thorough enough with this document, there should be no legal or financial matter that comes up for which you have not authorized your agent.

Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions:  This Power of Attorney also has different names and wording from State to State.  The document identifies you in legal terms, contains at least one "Attorney-in-Fact" to serve as your agent, gives them full authority to make all your health care decisions as if they were you, specifies any desires, special provisions or limitations you wish to include in the document, and sets the criteria under which your authorization becomes effective.  Make sure the Attorney-in-Fact and alternates match your Living Trust, if any.  Since you're authorizing them to make decisions "as if they were you", you don't need to make any special if you don't want to, or, you can tell them in a separate document or verbally if you wish.  If there are specific instructions and desires you want to be followed explicitly, it's best to include them in your Power of Attorney document.   If you want to restrict the Power of Attorney until you're incapacitated, make sure your definition of incapacitation is clear and is identical to any other document that has such a definition.  Often, either this Power of Attorney or the Living Trust will include or make reference to a "Living Will"  or "Advance Directive" that gives your agent and all health care providers specific instructions under certain health care circumstances (such as permanent vegetative state).  This is usually a document that contains your notarized signature so it can be easily copied and given to hospitals, etc.  For more information, see our page Purpose Of A Living Will.

What Is Power Of Attorney Planning?  As carefully as my mother planned, having all the right documents put together, I still found myself often in the position to guess what she would want under the circumstances she was in.  This was very painful for me.  Even though she died in 2000, over 5 years ago, some of the things I had to decide still give me pain.  I'm telling you this so you can know how important it is for you to spend the time it takes to think through these issues and be as clear as you can in the powers and directives you leave for your loved one to manage. There will be situations you can't define or even foresee, where it's important for your loved one to know you trust them to make the right decision based on the limited information they have.  This way, you can protect them as much as possible from the pain of these decisions.

Finally, no matter how much you plan, things have a tendency to come up that blows your plan out of the water.  No matter how dependable you think someone is, there's the possibility they disappoint you at a critical moment.  The final stages of aging can be summed up by the phrase, "loss of control."  This may be the most frightening thing you can say to someone who has controlled their own lives for 50 years, more-or-less.  What we need to understand is, we never had control.  There has always been Someone in the background, directing the ebbs and flows and protecting you.  That someone is God!  He's still there to help you through this last little frightening step toward Him.  If you want His help, click on God Help Me.

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