Power of Attorney: Why You’re Never Too Young

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When that time comes, having a power of attorney is a critical document to have. This document is among a handful of estate planning documents that help with decision making when a person is too ill, injured, or lacks the mental capacity to make their own decisions. The article, “Why you’re never too young for a power of attorney” from Lancaster Online, explains what these documents are and what purpose they serve.

There are three basic power of attorney documents: financial, limited, and health care.

You’re never too young or too old to have a power of attorney; anyone over the age of 18 should have one. If you don’t, a guardian must be appointed in a court proceeding who will make decisions for you. If the guardian who is appointed does not know you or your family, they may make decisions that you would not have wanted.

It’s never too early, but it could be too late. If you become incapacitated, you cannot sign a power of attorney.  At that time, your family will be faced with needing to pursue a guardianship and will not be able to make decisions on your behalf until that’s in place.

You’ll want to name someone you trust implicitly who will be available to make decisions when time is an issue.

For a medical or healthcare power of attorney, it’s best if the person lives nearby and knows you well. For a financial power of attorney, the person may not need to live nearby, but they must be trustworthy and financially competent.

Additionally, always have back-up agents, so if your primary agent is unavailable or declines to serve, you have someone who can step in on your behalf.

You should also work with an estate planning attorney to create the power of attorney you need. You may want to assign select powers, like managing certain bank accounts but not the sale of your home. An estate planning attorney will be able to tailor these documents to your exact needs. An attorney will also make sure to create a document that gives proper powers to the people you select. You want to ensure that you don’t create documents that gives someone the ability to exploit you.

Any of the power of attorneys you have created should be updated on a fairly regular basis. Over time, laws change and your personal situation may change. Review the documents at least annually to be sure that the people you have selected are still the people you want taking care of matters for you.

Most important of all, don’t wait to have a power of attorney created; along with your last will and testament, it’s an essential part of your estate plan.

Reference: Lancaster Online (May 15, 2019) “Why you’re never too young for a power of attorney”