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Financial Powers of Attorney

A General Power of Attorney is the most most important legal document that a person can have, and is an essential part of every Incapacity Plan and Estate Plan. A General Financial Power of Attorney (always "durable" when used in connection with estate planning) authorizes your agent, sometimes called "Attorney in Fact," to act on your behalf and sign your name to financial andor legal documents. The General Power of Attorney is an essential tool in the event that, due to age, illness, or injury, you are unable to carry on your legal and financial affairs. Having a General Power of Attorney avoids the "nightmare of living probate" -- the time consuming, expensive, and publicly embarrassing process whereby someone has to go to court to have you declared mentally or physically incompetent and then one or more persons need to be appointed to serve as your legal guardian and/or conservator, which process is subject to ongoing court supervision. State laws vary regarding the use and acceptance of a power of attorney, and most financial institutions have their own rules about Powers of Attorney.

It is important to understand that not all Power of Attorney documents are the same -- there are no "standard" forms.  A Power of Attorney can be customized for every individual based on that individual's desires.  From an Elder Law perspective, the most important provisions in a General Power of Attorney are "asset protection powers."  These powers include, among other things, the ability of your agent to make unlimited gifts and the ability of your agent to establish, fund, and terminate all types of trusts, both revocable and irrevocable.  These asset protection powers can be essential for implementing important asset protection strategies if you become disabled or need long-term nursing home care and want to avoid having to go broke paying for nursing home care. 

Most Power of Attorney "forms" that you will find on the internet or obtain as part of your basic estate planning done by an estate planning attorney or general practice attorney do NOT contain these vital asset protection powers.   Typically these essential asset protection powers are provided only if you have your Power of Attorney prepared by an experienced Elder Law Attorney, preferably a Certified Elder Law Attorney.