A durable power of attorney is a legal document that you should set up long before you ever need it. In it you empower an individual to act on your behalf during your lifetime. The trusted individual is known as your agent. The powers given to your agent become void upon your death. Whatever powers you designate, you can also revoke at any time.
Depending on the provisions of your document, this person can handle the following for you:
- Banking transactions
- Legal Claims
- Insurance and retirement benefits
- Real Estate Property buying, selling and management
- Safe deposit boxes
- Tax Returns
- Support and care payments
- Social Security and other benefits
- Contracts for services
Many people do not have a durable power of attorney or have an outdated general power of attorney which only becomes effective in your are first declared incapacitated by a court, which involves unnecessary time and expense. A durable power of attorney is also much more affordable than the alternative: setting up a guardianship. A guardianship may become necessary if a power of attorney was not prepared and the individual no longer has the mental capacity to sign a legal document. If you have already planned for a comprehensive durable power of attorney, and you become mentally incapacitated the need for a guardianship is eliminated. Establishing a guardianship can take months of court time and medical testimony, as well as costing thousands of dollars.
Ultimately, it is up to you and your lawyer to best ensure that your affairs, whether in the present or future, are managed according to your wishes. A well planned durable power of attorney can do just that.