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5 Misconceptions About Power of Attorney

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It’s not unusual for older adults to appoint one of their family members to oversee matters in the event of their absence, illness, injury, or cognitive impairment. The appointed individual possesses a legal document known as a power of attorney, and many people have misconceptions concerning the responsibility.

1. An Incompetent Senior Can Appoint a Power of Attorney

Once an aging adult becomes incapacitated, he or she is unable to appoint someone to manage his or her affairs. The senior also cannot legally sign the documents required to put the responsibility into action. A power of attorney must be established before a senior becomes incompetent. Otherwise, the only course family members have is to obtain a conservatorship or a guardianship.

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2. Internet Powers of Attorney Are Sufficient

Family members may turn to the internet to obtain a power of attorney. However, the power of attorney must address the unique and individual concerns of the senior. Documents obtained online may not be legal in certain states. They’re also often too general or ambiguous. Documents that don’t provide clear and precise authorizations could lead families into legal pitfalls. However, once the document is created, there is little families can do to reverse the dilemma.

3. Seniors Automatically Lose All Control After Signing

When seniors elect a power of attorney, they don’t automatically lose control or give up their rights. The document doesn’t become effective immediately after being signed by the parties involved or being notarized. A power of attorney can be crafted in such a way that the responsibility goes into effect should the senior become mentally or physically incapacitated. Until that point, the older adult remains in control.

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4. Powers of Attorney Are Standard

A power of attorney is not designed as a one-size-fits-all document. There are many types of powers of attorney designed to cover different circumstances.

• Non-Durable Power of Attorney – The responsibility extends for a predetermined length of time and covers a specific action. Once that action completes, the document becomes null and void.

• Durable Power of Attorney – The document enables the appointed family member to manage all of the senior’s personal affairs when he or she becomes unable to do so. The responsibility becomes active when the older adult is determined to be incapacitated and continues until the senior dies.

• Limited or Special Power of Attorney – The document enables the appointed individual to enact a single financial transaction or the sale of an estate.

• Medical Power of Attorney – The responsibility involves taking authority or deciding the medical care needed by the senior in the event he or she is mentally or physically unable to make decisions.

• Springing Power of Attorney – The responsibility takes effect in the event the older adult is out of the country or becomes incapacitated. The power of attorney may be durable or non-durable and gives the appointed individual the responsibility of managing the affairs as stipulated by the senior.

5. Power of Attorney Continues After Death

All powers of attorney become null and void at the time of the senior’s death. The powers and responsibilities assigned to the family member are also no longer needed.

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