Understanding Durable Powers Of Attorney

As an adult, you enjoy financial and legal autonomy. With any luck, things will stay this way for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, however, getting older comes with the risk of incapacity — a scenario in which you cannot make or communicate decisions on your own.

There are numerous ways that incapacity occurs, including:

  • Developing Alzheimer's or dementia
  • Being injured in a car crash
  • Falling into a coma
  • Suffering a head injury that impairs your cognitive function

Incapacity doesn't happen to everyone, of course, but there are simple steps you can take to protect yourself if it happens to you. As part of your larger estate plan, you can designate durable power of attorney to someone you know and trust.

What Does Durable Power Of Attorney Entail?

Just as you can appoint a health care agent to make medical decisions on your behalf, you can designate durable power of attorney to allow someone to make financial and legal decisions for you if you can no longer make or communicate such decisions on your own — or if you simply don't feel comfortable making these decisions anymore. The appointment is "durable" because it survives your incapacity, but power of attorney expires when you pass away.

When you grant someone durable power of attorney, he or she is authorized to make financial, legal and business decisions on your behalf. This could include:

  • Paying for your medical care with your money
  • Selling assets and real estate
  • Investing your money
  • Gifting your assets to others
  • Moving you into a nursing home or assisted living facility

All of the decisions your durable power of attorney makes should be solely for your benefit. Because this is a position of significant power and responsibility, you should be very careful and conscientious about who you appoint.

Even when choosing someone you trust, you can still limit the powers of your attorney in fact. If you don't want to designate general powers to your appointed representative (powers over all of your affairs), you can designate specific powers such as the authority to sign your checks and access your bank accounts.

Why Should You Choose Ahead Of Time?

If you ever become incapacitated and have not designated durable power of attorney in your estate plan, it will be necessary for your loved ones to go to court and petition for a court-appointed conservator. This gives you no control over who manages your affairs and will add extra costs in terms of legal fees and expenses. It can also be a lengthy appointment process, possibly delaying important decisions that need to be made.

In short, choosing someone now is better for everyone involved than scrambling to find someone later.

Talk To An Experienced Estate Planning Lawyer In A Free Consultation

Davidson Law Office is based in Bedford, Massachusetts, and serves clients throughout Middlesex County. For experienced legal advice and personalized guidance in estate planning matters, call me at 781-275-0222 or send me an email. The initial consultation is always free.