ARTICLE: What is a Durable Power of Attorney and How Does It Fit into My Estate Plan?

What is a Durable Power of Attorney and How Does It Fit into My Estate Plan?

With a power of attorney, a person, known as the principal, designates another, known as the agent, to act on their behalf. This legal document is effective upon signing and is commonly used in day-to-day life for various transactions, such as authorizing an investment professional to manage a stock portfolio. A power of attorney ends on a designated date, at a specific occurrence, or upon the principal’s incapacity.

Another type of power of attorney, called a durable power of attorney, is used for estate planning purposes. A durable power of attorney is different for a few reasons. Instead of expiring upon the principal’s incapacity, this is when a durable power of attorney “springs” into effect. Further, a durable power of attorney can potentially remain in place for the duration of the principal’s life. The durable power of attorney is often an important element of a comprehensive estate plan and can be used to designate an agent to make financial decisions or healthcare decisions on the incapacitated principal’s behalf.

What are the benefits of appointing a durable power of attorney?
One significant benefit of appointing a durable power of attorney in your estate plan is that it provides the opportunity to pre-plan for potential incapacity. While you are of sound mind, you can designate who will make decisions on your behalf—financial, healthcare, or both—if you should become incapacitated. Another important benefit is that you’re able to provide guidance to that person about how you’d like these decisions made. Appointing a person to this role means they’ll have the ability to adjust the decision making to the circumstances while keeping your best interests in mind.

Who should I choose for my durable power of attorney?
Choosing a durable power of attorney is a significant decision. Here are seven qualities to consider.

1. Trust: Your agent must be someone you trust implicitly to act in your best interests and to adhere to the decision-making guidance you provide.

2. Empathy: Your agent should be someone who has the emotional intelligence to understand the guidance you provide and apply that guidance to the decision-making process.

3. Administrative Skills: The administrative details required in managing finances or healthcare are significant so the agent must have excellent organizational skills. In addition, many institutions use paperless communication, so computer skills are likely paramount.

4. Intellectual Capacity: Your agent needs to have the intellectual capacity to manage the intricacies of finances or healthcare and to know when to consult a professional for help.

5. Accessible: Important decisions—particularly those related to healthcare—often need to be made at all hours. The agent should be someone who is readily available when the need arises.

6. Diplomatic: Financial and healthcare decision-making is difficult and, at times, controversial. You will want to designate an agent who can handle conflict and continue to champion your wishes.

7. Willing: Your agent must be willing to fulfill the responsibility that comes with being your financial or healthcare agent.

While planning for your own incapacity is a challenging endeavor, taking control of the unknown and planning for the potential can bring valuable peace of mind.

Work with an Experienced Corning Estate Planning Attorney
If you’d like to update your estate plan with a durable power of attorney, we’re here to help. Call Roth Elder Law, PLLC, today to schedule an initial meeting at 607-962-6162or complete this intake form and we’ll be in touch.

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We at Roth Elder Law, PLLC, believe in providing services in a way that clients can easily understand and meaningfully participate in designing and maintaining their estate plan for their loved ones, as well as be assured that their plan will be administered according to their wishes.