Use Springing Durable Power of Attorney To Protect Yourself
Q: I have lived alone since my divorce. Recently, I went to a lawyer to get advice about planning for the time when I might become incapacitated. The lawyer ran off photocopies of a durable power of attorney and sent it home with me for review. But I am concerned about giving someone carte blanche authority to take over my assets. What should I look for first?
A: Another lawyer. Although all durable powers of attorney should contain certain standardized wording, since each situation is different, the document must be tailored to your needs. You need a lawyer's advice before you can intelligently decide what you want. And, rather than finding it out on your own, you should have been told that as soon as you sign a durable power, you immediately give your agent the authority to act on your behalf.
If this concerns you, consider a "springing" durable power of attorney where some event - such as your incapacity as specifically defined in the document - must occur before your agent is authorized to act. But a power of attorney may not be the only document you need. We believe you should seek the services of an attorney knowledgeable in this complex field who will send you home with solutions, not more problems.
Jan Collins Stucker is an award-winning writer and editor. Jan Warner is a matrimonial, elder, and tax attorney. Both are based in Columbia, South Carolina. Flying Solo is seen in newspapers throughout the United States and can be found on the Internet at http://www.flyingsolo.com.
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