A power of attorney is a document specifying authority for a trusted representative, typically a family member, to act as an agent on behalf of the principle, the person rendering the authority, in personal, business, legal and health care matters. The document must be signed by the principle, and it is typically also signed by witnesses other than the authorized agent.
The power of attorney document continues in force for the duration period specified by the principle, which may be for the balance of the principle’s life, but, without further designation in writing, the power of attorney is dissolved upon the principle’s death.
However, it authorizes the agent to continue to act as agent after the principle’s death in order to settle the principle’s estate according to the principle’s stated wishes in a will. Durable power must be specifically documented by the principle in the power of attorney in order to be in force.
In cases of a principle’s ill health or incapacitation, a power of attorney is a sensible document to have in order to fully protect the rights of the principle, but there are several reasons why a durable power of attorney makes sense for a normal, healthy person in a good state of mind.
1. The most common justification for a deed with durability attached is if the principle is in poor health and at risk of incapacitation to handle affairs as noted above. If, in the course of continuing decline in health, leading to death, the principle’s estate is still protected by this.
2. While the principle is still living, but unable to render appropriate health care issues of self-interest, a trusted agent is authorized to make these important decisions based upon designation of prior wishes by the principle and documented in the durable power of attorney. For example, by pre-arrangement, the durable power of attorney may designate that the principle does not wish to artificially prolong life in the event of an incapacitating coronary or stroke. These wishes would be confirmed verbally by the agent.
3. A durable power of attorney may serve in authorizing an agent to file tax returns for the principle before and after death.
4. Financial concerns such as paying bills, conducting business contracts, real estate transactions of sale and purchase, property management, insurance claims, daily shopping, etc, are all authorized to be conducted by an agent by durable power of attorney.
5. Estate disposition after the death of the principle, handling funeral and burial arrangements, and seeing to the proper inheritance distribution based upon the stipulations in the principle’s will are all authorized by the durable power of attorney. Without a will and power of attorney, all of these necessary tasks after the principle’s death fall to probate court, which will detract from the inheritance.
A durable power of attorney offers the principle peace-of-mind that these affairs are all conducted by a trusted family member or friend.
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