A power of attorney is a crucial element in your overall estate plan. The key to a successful power of attorney, and one that is less likely to be challenged, is ensuring the details are covered. Any vulnerability leaves your estate vulnerable. In recent years, do it yourself powers of attorney have been the first choice for many. Unfortunately, they’re rarely complete and are often challenged because of a forgotten detail.
The first thing we stress to our clients is to ensure your entire estate plan is complete and that certainly applies to any powers of attorney you’ve included. Too many times, this is a forgotten detail. You’d be surprised at the number of ex-wives who are revealed as the power of attorney because a former spouse forgot to make the changes a decade ago. While we strive to keep the lines of communication open, there are those times when remarriages, births and deaths happen that we’re unaware of. It’s important to do a quick check-up every few years, if for nothing else, the peace of mind it provides.
Be sure you understand exactly what kind of power you’re giving to another person. Choose wisely. Remember too that the one you’ve chosen as a medical power of attorney might not be the best choice for a financial power of attorney. While no one wants hurt feelings, remember that your decision affects your family as a whole. You shouldn’t walk on eggshells to avoid hurting feelings.
That said, it’s also important to not allow that to be the reason you overlook it as a whole. Not creating a power of attorney is always a bigger risk: it opens up the possibility of a stranger being named. Cover the bases while you can; once you’re incapacitated, it’s no longer your choice.
Also, and this falls more in line with keeping your power of attorney current, but don’t forget that if you move, there may be different laws that govern your estate plan. Don’t underestimate them.
Too many times, people think that a power of attorney is a one-person powerhouse. You can name more than one power of attorney. Don’t rush the process – it’s important to ensure it’s done, but it’s important to ensure it’s done properly.
Organization counts. While our offices have definitive safety mechanisms in place, you should also treat your own copies and information as a priority. Be sure someone knows where to find it if you’re unable to tell them. They may have no idea that a law firm has already put these dynamics in place for you – be sure you leave a way for them to find us.
You’d be surprised at the instances where changes were made with the client thinking they were minimal. Instead of updating the documents through legal channels, they opted to ink-delete or add to their copies and then initial the changes. This results in untold problems for the family and from a legal perspective as well. We can make the changes for you, quickly, and all you need to do is come by, OK the changes and sign them. We’ll provide new copies for your files and ensure the most current copies are filed appropriately. It’s better to assume nothing – that’s the purpose of estate planning, after all.