“Why do I need a power of attorney when I’m healthy?”
As adults, we treasure our ability to make decisions. We don’t want to go back to a time where we cannot make decisions. It seems . . . well . . . un-American.
So why in the world would we give anyone power of attorney over us when we are healthy? Why let anyone else make decisions for us?
Let’s talk about this.
“First, what is a power of attorney?”
A power of attorney — normally called a “durable financial power of attorney” — gives someone (the “agent”) the ability to make decisions for you. It is the same as if you were making the decisions.
The scope or range of those decisions is laid out in the actual document. It might be the power to sell real property or that might be included.
The power to create a trust or it might lack this power.
“Second, what is the benefit of a power of attorney?”
It allows someone else to make decisions on your behalf without having to go to court to obtain a guardian or conservator over you.
This is normally used when you can’t make decisions — due to an injury, dementia, etc — also known as being “incompetent.”
If you are incompetent — temporarily or permanently — then the only way for someone else to act on your behalf is if you have the right kind of trust set up (we’ll discuss in another article) or someone has power of attorney over you.
“Third, what are the dangers of giving someone power of attorney over me?”
With apologies to my English teachers, if I give you power of attorney then “you is me”…. You have the right to do whatever the document gives you the power to do.
That creates the potential for abuse.
So it is better to NOT have a power of attorney than to give it to the wrong person as you are giving that person the right to make decisions for you. That person needs to be someone that you trust completely.
“Fourth, why would I give power of attorney to someone when I’m healthy?”
You can’t give power of attorney when you are incompetent.
So if you don’t give it while you are healthy, then you must time it so precisely to give it right before you become incompetent. Of course we never know when that drunk will run a red light and hit us or we will have a stroke, etc.
So do it while you can make decisions now — give it to the person or people that you trust absolutely. This may be your spouse, your kids, your siblings, whoever it might be.
But if you don’t, and then you can’t make decisions, then your family will spend a lot of money and time going to court to get a guardian or conservatorship over you.
“Finally, what do I do now if I want to learn more about a power of attorney and estate planning?”
We have workshops, we have written information, and we are always glad to discuss with folks about the options in making decisions now to make sure your wishes are carried out while you are alive, even if you are disabled, and carried out even after you pass away.
Give us a call at 205-879-2447 and let the receptionist know you have questions about estate planning and we’ll be glad to set up a call or meeting or get you in one of our workshops where you can learn about all aspects of estate planning (including powers of attorney) in a fun and educational way. You can also fill out our online contact form and we will get right back with you.