Your durable power of attorney is one of the most important documents any adult should have while they are living. Why? Because if you never sign a durable power of attorney and you lose capacity whether due to old age or an accident, the only alternative may be filing for a conservatorship through your probate court which will cost you thousands of dollars and requires at least one hearing which means you or your loved ones are going to miss some work getting it set up. After it’s set up, you’ll be turning in reports every year to the probate court telling that judge exactly how you spent every penny. If this does not sound like fun, you are correct. Avoid conservatorships; sign a durable power of attorney.
A durable power of attorney is the document that allows someone else to handle your financial affairs while you are alive. It is usually “durable” which means it continues in effect even after you lose capacity to make decisions for yourself. This power of attorney will contain many general powers. If you use the state form, the powers offered are only general and often do not include the powers needed to do eldercare planning or complete probate court forms.
Drafters of the Georgia statutes do not place extended powers in the standard form because they want you to speak with an attorney before granting your agent those extended powers. They also do not consider other powers such as the power to access your digital assets. What are digital assets and why do you care? How many families use Facebook to send pictures of grandchildren to grandparents? What about Amazon Kindle? How many of you have libraries of books you’ve read on Amazon? Don’t you want to make sure your agent can access that information and download pictures and change or erase credit card information on various websites? Sure! We all want that. But if your power of attorney does not grant access to digital assets specifically, your agent may be stuck.
I typically make all of my powers effective immediately because I have found that the clients who want to delay the effective date of their power of attorney are not confident in the ability of the agent they are appointing. If that’s the case, it’s better to appoint that agent now when you have the capacity to revoke your power of attorney and appoint someone else then to wait to make the power effective when you no longer have the ability to change your agent. If you do not have any trustworthy or financially competent or responsible people to appoint, then appoint a professional. I have accountants who will serve, companies that actually help seniors pay bills and make sure they have enough money in their accounts who will serve as someone’s agent, attorneys, old friends, etc. Your agents do not have to be your family members.
Power of attorney forms change from time to time as well. Make sure your power of attorney is up to date. If you haven’t already, take your power of attorney to your bank and all your financial institutions and have them review your power of attorney and approve it and keep it on file. If they refuse to approve it or accept it, it’s probably because they want you to sign their own form. In that case, sign their proprietary power of attorney form naming the same agents as your agents for that company OR consider changing banks or financial institutions.
If your Durable Power of Attorney is older than five (5) years, please get it updated! The last thing we want to see is someone become disabled and be stuck with an old power of attorney. Feel free to give us a call if you need help.