Essential Information about Durable Power of Attorney

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Right after you and your agent have signed the documents, the durable powers of attorney take effect until they are revoked by the principal. The document is terminated at the death of the principal. Durable powers of attorney are named that way because no additional corrections to the documents are necessary once the principal becomes mentally incapacitated. Thus, this type of powers of attorney is an enduring one since it remains in effect even if the principal is mentally incapable of making decisions for himself or herself.

Durable powers of attorney are classified into two general types: health care and financial. As the name suggests, health care durable powers of attorney authorize a person, who is called an agent or an attorney-in-fact, to make all the needed choices regarding health care and hospitalization on behalf of the principal. The decisions can be made by the agent once the principal is no longer able to do it for himself or herself. This type of durable powers of attorney takes effect when the principal has become mentally incapacitated or has a terminal disease. It grants the agent the right to decide on what to do with the principal’s remains after his or her death, as well as donate the organs for educational, scientific, or transplant purposes.

What if I have not appointed someone as an agent to oversee of my health care, you might ask. If nobody has powers of attorney to act on your behalf and you are already unconscious or mentally incapable, the courts will assign someone to make health care decisions for you.

The second type of durable powers of attorney is financial in nature. It is defined as the full legal authority given to another individual to be responsible for all your finance-related affairs, including filing income tax returns and paying the bills. The agent can even sign documents on behalf of the principal.

This agent is allowed to handle all the principal’s finances except the assets owned by the revocable living trust. Examples of assets outside the living trust include pension plans, annuities, and IRAs (individual retirement accounts). These assets are managed by the attorney-in-fact designated by the principal who owns the assets. As with a living trust, durable powers of attorney protect the privacy of the principal as well as prevent delays in financial transactions.

It pays to plan your estate before you become unable to manage things by yourself. On that note, it is important to have a durable power of attorney ready so that you can rest assured that someone you trust will manage all your finances, assets, and health care issues instead of a person appointed by the courts.

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