I posted a couple of days ago about making sure that your Will, while still valid, is drafted properly for your current situation. The same holds true for your durable power of attorney. I have seen many clients come in with what was a perfectly acceptable durable power of attorney for certain purposes, but did not contain all of the provisions necessary to provide for the management of their affairs during incapacity. Unfortunately, I have also dealt with families who came to me after their loved one had already become incapacitated, with a durable power of attorney that did not contain the necessary provisions and they had to obtain a guardianship over their parent or spouse in order to manage their affairs. This is a lengthy, expensive, public and emotionally difficult process which removes many of a person's rights that could have been avoided with a properly and comprehensively drafted durable power of attorney.
Some of the things that you should talk to your attorney about including in your durable power of attorney are authorizations for your attorney in fact to take the follow actions:
- rent or sell any real estate you own,
- make gifts from your assets, including to themselves if appropriate,
- apply for public assistance for you - Medicare, Medicaid, SSI, etc.
- file your taxes and receive returns on your behalf,
- petition the court for estate planning on your behalf, and
- be nominated as your guardian if it becomes necessary for you to have a guardian.
This is not a comprehensive list of all the powers contained in a durable power of attorney, but they are some of the ones that can cause problems down the road if they are left out. So, get those documents out of the box in the closet and let your attorney take a look at them. She'll let you know if they are perfect as they are, or if they need to be changed. Either way, you and your family can rest easier once it's done.