Sunday, February 01, 2015
A Power of Attorney ("POA") is a legal document by which you (the "principal") give certain powers to someone else. This person becomes your "agent" and is authorized to act for you in your place.
Many attorney, stores and Internet services provide a general, short-form POA. This type of POA provides general, "one-size fits all" powers to the agent. Unfortunately, I find that for seniors dealing with Elder Law issues, general POAs may be either too limiting (not enough power given) or too broad (too much power given) to fit the senior's particular situation.For example, if you are a senior who is concerned about protecting and preserving your assets should you need long term care in a nursing home facility, your power of attorney may need "gifting authority." This power states with specificity that your agent is allowed to make transfers of your assets (consistent with your estate plan or not, it is up to you) in order to maximize govern- mental benefits such as Medicaid. Without this specific power, your family may need to ask permission from the probate court to protect your assets. There is no guarantee a probate court will agree to the request and the court process will be much more expensive than a properly drafted power of attorney.
Seniors may also be concerned about their agent having access to their money without having any oversight. If this is a concern, your power of attorney can set forth "accounting provisions." These provisions require the Agent to report quarterly (or more often, if you wish) to your children any time they take action on your behalf. This provision is very helpful for families where multiple children are involved and there may be concerns about the senior's choice of the agent.
I recommend a Power of Attorney for all of my elder law clients. Power of Attorney are inexpensive – but can be the most important planning tool for seniors facing long term care. However, as noted in the few examples above, great care should be taken in drafting a Power of Attorney to fit your needs. A "one size fits all" approach to estate planning / elder law issues is never a good idea. If you'd like some help in getting a Power of Attorney in place that meets your needs, contact us today. I'd be happy to help.