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The Top 10 Benefits of Comprehensive Powers of Attorney

Whether for medical or for financial reasons, the benefits of a highly detailed, comprehensive power of attorney are numerous. Unfortunately, most powers of attorney are general in nature and can actually cause more problems than they solve. 

Much has been written about financial exploitation of individuals, particularly seniors and other vulnerable people, by people who take advantage of them through undue influence, hidden transactions, identity theft, and the like. Even though exploitation risks exist, there are great benefits to one individual (the principal) privately empowering another person (the agent) to act on the principal's behalf to perform certain financial functions or to make health care decisions when they are needed.

 

So, what can well written, thoughtful powers of attorney do for you and your family?  Here’s the top ten:

1. Without them, you lose control.  The best time to plan is “when you can.” Powers of attorney are a perfect example of this concept.  Without a comprehensive legal plan, you will lose control of not only your money, but also your own self if something happens to you.  

2. Avoids the necessity of getting the court involved. If a person becomes incapacitated without a power of attorney, the family would have no alternative than to have someone else petition the court to appoint a guardian or conservator. The court will choose who is appointed to manage the financial and/or health affairs of the incapacitated person, and the court will continue to monitor the situation as long as the incapacitated person is alive. This is a costly process where the incapacitated person has no input on who will be appointed to serve.

3. Provides family members a good opportunity to discuss wishes and desires.  There is much thought and consideration that goes into the creation of a comprehensive power of attorney. One of the most important decisions is who will serve as the agent. When a parent or loved one makes the decision to sign a power of attorney, it is a good opportunity for the parent to discuss wishes and expectations with the family and, in particular, the person named as agent in the power of attorney.

4. The more comprehensive the power of attorney, the better.  As people age, their needs change and their power of attorney should reflect that. Seniors have concerns about long term care, applying for government benefits to pay for care, as well as choosing the proper care providers. Without allowing the agent to perform these tasks and more, precious time and money may be wasted. 

5. Prevents questions about principal's intent.  Many of us have read about court battles over a person's intent once that person has become incapacitated. A well-drafted power of attorney, along with other health care directives, can eliminate the need for family members to argue or disagree over a loved one's wishes. Once written down, this document is excellent evidence of their intent and is difficult to dispute.

6. Prevents delays in asset protection planning.  A comprehensive power of attorney should include all of the powers required to do effective asset protection planning. If the power of attorney does not include a specific power, it can greatly dampen the agent's ability to complete the planning and could result in thousands of dollars lost. While some powers of attorney seem long, it is necessary to include all of the powers necessary to carry out proper planning.

7. Protects the agent from claims of financial abuse.  Comprehensive powers of attorney often allow the agent to make substantial gifts to self or others in order to carry out asset protection planning objectives. Without the power of attorney authorizing this, the agent (often a family member) could be at risk for financial abuse allegations.

8. Allows agents to talk to other agencies.  An agent under a power of attorney is often in the position of trying to reconcile bank charges, make arrangements for health care, engage professionals for services to be provided to the principal, and much more. Without a comprehensive power of attorney giving authority to the agent, many companies will refuse to disclose any information or provide services to the incapacitated person. This can result in a great deal of frustration on the part of the family, as well as lost time and money.

9. Allows an agent to perform planning and transactions to make the principal eligible for public benefits.  One could argue that transferring assets from the principal to others in order to make the principal eligible for public benefits--Medicaid and/or non-service-connected Veterans Administration benefits--is not in the best interests of the principal, but rather in the best interests of the transferees. In fact, one reason that a comprehensive durable power of attorney is essential in elder law is that a Judge may not be willing to authorize a conservator to protect assets for others while enhancing the ward/protected person's eligibility for public benefits. However, that may have been the wish of the incapacitated person and one that would remain unfulfilled if a power of attorney were not in place. 

10. Provides peace of mind for everyone involved.  Taking the time to sign a power of attorney lessens the burden on family members who would otherwise have to go to court to get authority for performing basic tasks, like writing a check or arranging for home health services. Knowing this has been taken care of in advance is of great comfort to families.

This article regarding the Top 10 Benefits of a Comprehensive Power of Attorney could be expanded by many more. Which benefits are most important depends on the situation of the principal and their loved ones. This is why a comprehensive power of attorney is so essential: Nobody can predict exactly which powers will be needed in the future. The planning goal is to have a power of attorney in place that empowers a succession of trustworthy agents to do whatever needs to be done in the future. For more information regarding powers of attorney, click here

Questions? Contact Us Today at (248) 278-1511. We Can Help.


This article regarding powers of attorney by Michigan lawyer Nicole Wipp and the Family & Aging Law Center PLLC is not, and should not be construed as, legal advice. It is for general informational purposes only. To better understand how this legal concept can be applied to you, consult with an attorney.

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