Durable Power of Attorney
Many people do not realize that a comprehensive estate plan can protect them during their lifetime, as well as protecting loved ones after they pass. One of the most important tools we use at Casey Lundregan Burns to provide that protection is a durable power of attorney.
A power of attorney allows someone you trust to make decisions and manage affairs on your behalf if you become incapacitated and are unable to communicate. An accident or illness can strike anyone at any age, so it is a good idea for all adults to have a power of attorney prepared for their protection.
How a Power of Attorney Works
A power of attorney document authorizes one individual to serve as an agent for another. Massachusetts permits individuals to grant two types of powers:
- Financial power of attorney enables your agent to conduct transactions, manage your financial affairs, and handle general business in your name.
- Medical power of attorney, also referred to as a health care proxy, allows someone to authorize medical treatment and make health care decisions if you become incapacitated
The document creating the power of attorney can specify the exact amount of authority you want to grant and set limits on how it can be used. For instance, someone wanting assistance with paying bills and managing financial matters might grant a power of attorney with broad terms to an adult child giving them access to all their financial accounts. Or an individual who is planning to travel might execute a very specific power of attorney giving their agent power to sign documents for a single transaction.
Options for Powers of Attorney
We customize powers of attorney for our clients in a variety of ways. In addition to covering financial or medical matters, and granting broad or narrow authority, we can also set up power so that it takes effect immediately or only springs into effect when a certain event occurs. For instance, we can create a springing power of attorney that only gives someone authority to access your bank account if you become physically or mentally incapacitated.
Most powers of attorney created in Massachusetts these days are durable powers of attorney. The power is considered durable if it remains in effect after the grantor becomes incapacitated. In the past, power of attorney documents often terminated with incapacity, which made them useless at the time they were most needed.
Important Features to Understand About a Power of Attorney
Power of attorney documents, particularly those pertaining to financial matters, need to be prepared and executed with great caution. When you give someone authority to act, you can give them authority to act in a way that you would not want. You need to consider your choice of agent carefully. The best way to protect yourself, however, is to work closely with your attorney while preparing the document so that it conveys no more and no less authority than you intend.
Many people think they do not need a power of attorney because they can simply add someone’s name to their bank account to pay their bills. But in doing so, they risk losing everything in that account, because they make the person named a co-owner of the account. That means any creditors of that person can take your funds to satisfy outstanding debts.
By contrast, when you grant financial power of attorney, you give your agent access to your accounts, but you do not give them ownership rights in those accounts. Your agent’s creditors cannot try to take your assets as they would be able to do if you had simply added your agent’s name to your bank account.
Casey Lundgren Burns Can Protect You with the Right Power of Attorney
The right power of attorney documents can protect your health, finances, and autonomy in the event of a future emergency. At Casey Lundregan Burns, we have over 90 years of experience crafting powers of attorney tailored to meet our clients’ specific situations, so we know how to find just the right balance for your needs. Let us help you stay prepared for the future with a custom power of attorney.