The benefits of a detailed, comprehensive power of attorney are numerous. Unfortunately, many powers of attorney are more general in nature and will cause more problems than they solve, especially for our senior population.
Here are just a few benefits of having a comprehensive power of attorney:
1. You choose the person (rather than a court) and avoid guardianship.
The person appointed under a power of attorney is an “agent” and the person doing the appointing is the “principal.” Florida has a “durability” statute that allows principals to include a declaration that no power granted will become invalid upon the subsequent mental incapacity of the principal. The result is a “durable power of attorney.” If someone has signed a durable power of attorney and is later incapacitated, the agent named can step into the shoes of the person and make important decisions. Otherwise, a guardianship is needed, which is very expensive. In guardianship, the court chooses who is appointed to make decisions and the court continues monitoring until the incapacitated dies.
2. Family members can discuss wishes and have peace of mind.
One of the most important decisions in creating the power of attorney is who will serve as the agent. It must be someone honest and reliable. This time is a good opportunity for the principal to discuss wishes with the family, particularly with the agent. Knowing this has been taken care of in advance is great comfort to families.
3. The more comprehensive the better.
Many people are frightened by a long document, but as people age, their needs change and their power of attorney should reflect that. Seniors have concerns about long-term care, applying for Medicaid and/or Veterans benefits to pay for care, as well as choosing proper care providers. A comprehensive power of attorney should include all powers required to do effective asset protection planning so that time and money are not lost.
4. Prevents questions about intent.
A well-drafted power of attorney, along with other health care directives, can eliminate the need for family members to argue over a loved one’s wishes. The written document is excellent evidence of their intent and is difficult to dispute.
5. Allows agents to talk to others.
An agent under a power of attorney is often in the position of trying to manage bank accounts, engage professionals, and more. Without giving specific authority to the agent, many companies will refuse to disclose information or provide services. This can result in a great deal of frustration for the family and lost time and money.
Planning ahead is key. A comprehensive power of attorney is essential; nobody can predict exactly which powers will be needed in the future. The goal is to have a document in place that empowers a succession of trustworthy agents to take care of the principal.
The attorneys at Bullard & Mulkey, P.A. take great care to ensure you understand and have made thoughtful decisions about your power of attorney.