What Powers Can I Authorize Under a Durable Power of Attorney?

A durable and general power of attorney is an important document that should be at the cornerstone of your estate planning. A power of attorney is most effective in the event of incapacity, such as an illness or event that renders you unable to make decisions or take certain actions on your own. You can decide what works best for your situation and then discussing setting your POA up that way with your lawyer.

A durable general power of attorney authorizes a person to act in a wide range of business and legal matters, which will stay in effect even if you are incapacitated. You can decide that your general POA becomes effective only if you are incapacitated or it becomes effective immediately upon the signing of the document.

The person that you appoint as your attorney in fact or agent can handle many types of transactions on your behalf, including filing tax returns, selling and buying property, managing bank accounts and applying for government benefits. Without a general durable power of attorney in your estate planning document set, your family might need to go to court to request that you be declared incompetent so that a person can take care of your finances for you.

It’s important to recognize that a general durable power of attorney is not the same thing as a durable healthcare power of attorney. You’ll need to sit down with an estate planning lawyer to discuss some of the distinctions between various types of power of attorney documents and which of these are most appropriate for your individual situation.

Need help with your POA assignment in New Hampshire or Maine? Discuss your options by contacting our firm today.

 

 

What Does a Convenience Account Have to Do with a Power of Attorney?

If you are concerned about being able to keep up with your banking and your bill paying, using a durable power of attorney is an excellent way to appoint another person to make these decisions and take these actions on your behalf. In the process of setting up your planning, you might run across the term convenience account.

If you are older and concerned about keeping up with your financial affairs, it is natural to think about whether or not there is a family member or other person who could help you manage deposits, writing checks or getting cash out of the bank for you. This can backfire very badly if you do not accomplish the process of setting up a power of attorney in the right way.

Adding someone as a co-owner of your bank account, for example, empowers them to make all decisions as if it was their own bank account. This is different than setting up a power of attorney and can lead to problems like sibling conflict, creditor access, and misuse. The best way to give another person authority over your financial matters is to sign a document known as a durable power of attorney for finances.

Your attorney in fact would still be eligible to spend your money with regard to your bank account but there are two primary restrictions that add a layer of support for you. These are that the funds must be used only for your benefit and at the time that you pass away the money becomes part of your estate, meaning that it does not go to the person that you named as the attorney in fact.

Schedule a consultation with a trusted estate planning lawyer to discuss how a power of attorney document can be used for your best interests.  Our New Hampshire law office is here to support you with the creation of your power of attorney document so that you feel confident about your decisions.

 

 

Should My Financial Power of Attorney Agent Get Extra Authority?

Using a simple power of attorney form makes it seem as though it will be a seamless process to transfer financial authority to this person. However, you might not realize in filling out a simple online form or downloadable PDF that there are significant powers a DIY template like this does not include.

It’s important to educate yourself about these possibilities so that you can determine whether there are circumstances in which you need to give your agent extra authority. Basic power of attorney documents usually do not include the authority to:

  • Delegate the agent’s existing powers to another individual.
  • Update designations for beneficiaries on retirement or life insurance accounts.
  • Amend or create trusts on behalf of the principal in the power of attorney.
  • Create gifts from a property.

One of the reasons that simple forms don’t include these powers is because they can be very dangerous if given to the wrong individual. This could ruin your estate plan and eliminate this property if you don’t have any trusted POA agent. However, if you do trust your POA agent and want this person to have as many choices as possible for taking care of you, these powers can be essential. You’ll want to discuss the options with your estate planning attorney to determine whether or not you wish to allow for additional care and options.

Need more information about what this looks like in New Hampshire or Maine? Use us as a resource- schedule a call with our NH estate office today.

Preventing Challenges or Conflicts with Your Power of Attorney Document

Creating a financial power of attorney is one of the first and most important steps that you can take to protect yourself in the event that you become unable to make decisions or take actions with your finances.

However, you’ll want to ensure that your financial power of attorney is properly drafted and accepted. If you think that someone might end up going to court to challenge your durable power of attorney for finances or arguing that you were in fact coerced into signing it, there are several proactive steps you can take in drafting and signing the document to minimize these problems. First of all, if you previously created a financial power of attorney document by yourself, you might want a lawyer to review the document.

An experienced and knowledgeable estate planning lawyer can help you answer questions about the POA as well as any other estate planning documents you might have created. You might also be anticipating challenges to a trust or a will. A knowledgeable estate planning attorney can answer questions for all of these issues too.

A couple of key steps can minimize the opportunities for someone to challenge the validity of your financial power of attorney. While you may certainly hope that no one will end up arguing about the legality of this document, being proactive can help reduce expenses and delays with regard to your agent under the power of attorney taking the action you desire. Some actions you can take to minimize the risk of challenges to your financial power of attorney include:

  • Get a doctor’s statement saying that you appeared to be of sound mind at the time you signed the financial power of attorney.
  • Sign your document in front of witnesses and a Notary Public.
  • Make a videotape of the signing ceremony.

While we certainly hope you never need to fight back against a challenge to your financial power of attorney, it is a smart idea to take these proactive steps to avoid a challenge. Schedule a consultation today with an estate planning attorney in New Hampshire.

 

Woman signing paperwork naming an executor to her estate.

How to Make Things Easier for Your Executor

When you name someone as the executor of your estate, you are sending a message that you trust them significantly because this person is responsible for handling all of your affairs when you are no longer around. You are also passing on a lot of tasks and work for this executor because it is a very time-consuming process to wrap up an estate. Woman signing paperwork naming an executor to her estate.

Some of the steps that you take now can make things much easier for your executor and by association, your heirs. The first thing to do is update your trust beneficiary and will designations.

One of the best things you can do for your executor is to leave behind documents that truly reflect your wishes and are easily found after you pass away. Make sure that all beneficiary forms for your retirement accounts, life insurance policies and payable on death designations are fully updated. Be sure that if you’ve created a living trust that all of the relevant assets have been funded inside of it. An executor must also be able to find the documents that you have left behind.

There are legal and financial documents that almost everyone will have or need and these should be organized in one safe place. This can include vehicle titles, birth certificates, divorce decrees, marriage certificates, military discharge paperwork, property tax records, social security records, trust documents, brokerage statements, insurance policies and deeds to real estate.

Where possible, make the extra step to introduce your executor to your professional advisors, such as your life insurance company, brokerage company, bank, and home and auto insurance company. Ensure that some cash is accessible so that your executor can take action sooner rather than later.

Need more help with your estate plan? Set up a time to talk to our law firm about your estate planning program.

 

 

Unexpected retirement. Sign outside on sidewalk with the words "What's your plan for retirement?"

How to Deal with an Unexpected Retirement

Your retirement plan is likely entirely contingent on how long you intend or consider yourself able to work. Health crises or economic crises may be pushing more people toward an unexpected retirement or an early retirement than ever before. Even if you don’t believe that a retirement is immediately on your horizon, it can be well worth spending some time thinking about how you would adapt quickly if you needed to move into retirement.Unexpected retirement. Sign outside on sidewalk with the words "What's your plan for retirement?"

Retiring earlier than expected is not something new. In fact, a study recently completed by Allianz Life found that half of current retirees retired earlier than expected. Most of the people in that study, however, said that they retired for reasons outside of their control, such as the unexpected loss of a job or the development of healthcare issues that prevented them from being able to do the job.

The first thing to do when planning ahead for potentially early retirement is to fill in the gaps by examining health care needs first and then looking into other employment options.

A part time hourly or contract position could be a way to help bridge the gap if you were not financially ready to retire at the time that you had to leave the work force for one reason or another.

If you had to retire due to health issues, now is also the time to look more deeply into your elder law plan. Have you thought about protecting yourself or your spouse if your healthcare issues got worse? Do you know how you’d qualify for Medicaid if you needed it?

Schedule a time to speak with an elder law attorney if you’re coming up on retirement and are ready to answer the important questions around your elder law plan.

 

Notebook on desk with the words Estate Planning written. Represents a proactive approach to estate planning.

Why Being Proactive Is Important for Estate & Elder Planning

You know that you need to create an estate and finding a way to craft these documents will not only give you peace of mind but makes things easier for your loved ones. But if you haven’t taken the steps already to put your estate plan into writing, you could be leaving your loved ones to deal with the difficult task of having to wait for the court to process your probated estate.Notebook on desk with the words Estate Planning written. Represents a proactive approach to estate planning.

The court becomes empowered to make decisions on your behalf if you don’t take the proactive step of estate planning. Being proactive in terms of organizing your estate means not waiting until you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness or passed retirement age. The best estate plans are those that are established in early adulthood and revised every five years or each time that a major life event occurs.

A knowledgeable estate planner should be engaged to craft your comprehensive estate plan. An estate planner will look at many different aspects of your personal goals and the strategies and tactics available to you.

They will mesh the goals that you want to achieve, the legacy that you intend to leave behind to your loved ones and charities you wish to support and the steps that are necessary to get there. Scheduling a consultation now with an estate planning attorney assures that if something were to happen to you or if you were to become suddenly incapacitated that there are plans in place to protect your loved ones.

As you approach older ages, you need to think carefully about how you’ll protect your own interests as well as those of your beneficiaries. Our New Hampshire and Maine estate planning law office is here to support you.

Elderly couple discussing a neurological condition with their attorney

Why Those with Neurological Conditions Need Estate Planning

People of all ages and backgrounds can benefit from the process of estate planning. As an elder law practice, we often help people who are approaching retirement age or looking a few years into the future.

But for anyone who suffers from a serious neurological condition, it is even more important to schedule a consultation with an estate planning attorney to discuss your next steps right away. There are unique considerations in elder law to take into account when you have a loved one recently diagnosed with a neurological condition.Elderly couple discussing a neurological condition with their attorney

Neurological conditions can get worse over time, making it difficult for you to make decisions on your own or to be classified as legally incompetent.

All planning and documents for anyone diagnosed with a neurological condition need to be tailored specifically to you. Your planning must reflect your personal experience within that condition and the possibility that it might get worse over time. Consider some of the following aspects when deciding what to incorporate with regards to an elderly neurological condition:

  • Your current status.
  • The rate of progression or rate of anticipated recovery.
  • Future prognosis.

All of these issues should be taken into consideration by you and your estate planning lawyer when discussing your next steps to protect your interests and to ensure that you have necessary documents in place should you become incapacitated.

Power of attorney documents and decisions regarding your health care should be discussed in advance so that your loved ones do not have the added stress of having to go through court and have someone appointed to make these decisions on your behalf. If you have specific wishes surrounding your health care or who will step in to manage your finances, decide that now in the event that your brain based neurological condition gets more severe.

Our Dover, NH estate planning office is here to help you get your documents in order and to discuss your concerns when your spouse or family member has been diagnosed with a neurological issue.