Executing a Power of Attorney is a cheap and efficient way to protect yourself and your assets in the event you suffer a temporary or permanent disability or incapacity. In such a case, it is important to have appointed an "attorney-in-fact" or "agent," who has the authority to act on your behalf to handle your mortgage, utilities and other financial or real property obligations. If you appoint a healthcare agent, that person has the authority to make important medical decisions on your behalf in the event you do not have the proper mental capacity to do so. Executing a Power of Attorney is especially important when you become older, as the risk of incapacity increases.
If you have not executed a valid Power of Attorney appointing an agent, assets and accounts you own in your individual name cannot be managed by anyone, which could lead to dire results, such as a foreclosure on your home. If you have not appointed an agent through a Power of Attorney, someone would have to make an application to become your legal guardian through a court proceeding, which is a time-consuming and costly process. A guardianship proceeding could also result in arguments between family members, who may not agree about who should be your legal guardian. Appointing an agent through a Power of Attorney eliminates such pitfalls, and leaves the choice of your agent in your hands.
I have experienced a handful of unfortunate cases in which an individual was diagnosed with the onset of Alzheimer's or another form of dementia. The individual and their family dragged their feet when it came to preparing for the uncertain future. Only once the individual slipped further into dementia, when he or she could no longer act on his or her behalf, did the family consider the need for a Power of Attorney.
Unfortunately, once an individual no longer has the mental capacity to understand the type of document they are executing, a person is no longer legally capable of executing a Power of Attorney.
Do not wait. Be prepared for these situations, especially those situation in which you have notice of a pending disability or incapacity. Being prepared will make coping with the uncertainties of the future that much easier. Contact Jason D. Briel, Esq. for more information related to executing a valid Power of Attorney.
The foregoing is intended to be a general discussion of the law and is not intended to be construed as legal advice. If you have a specific question, please contact our office to speak with an attorney.