Given the numerous and varied uses for a power of attorney, there is a very good chance that you will wish to create one at some point in your life. Like many people, you may be tempted to download a “fill-in-the-blank” form or purchase a “do-it-yourself” kit from your local stationary supply store when the time comes that you need a power of attorney, or POA. While it may seem like a way to save both time and money, going the “DIY” route all too often actually ends up costing you, or your loved ones, considerably more time and money than you thought you saved. It is always best to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney if you find yourself in need of a POA; however, it may also be beneficial to be knowledgeable about what makes a good power of attorney. The following are some of the factors that separate a good power of attorney from a not so good POA:
- Agent authority – a good POA should only give an Agent the as much authority as the Agent needs, nor more and no less. A general POA, for example, should not be used when a limited POA will suffice.
- Durability – a traditional POA terminates upon the death or incapacity of the Principal – something the average person does not know. Because incapacity is often precisely when a Principal wants the Agent’s authority to be valid, a traditional POA may be effectively worthless. A good POA is often a “durable” POA. “Durable” simply means that the Agent’s authority survives the incapacity of the Principal.
- Successor agent – the death, incapacity, or unavailability of your designated Agent could make your POA worthless unless you have designated a successor Agent or included the process for selecting one.
- Execution – the requirements for execution of a POA differ by state. Even when there are no specific requirements, it is always best to have a POA witnessed by two uninterested parties and/or notarized.
- Compliance with state law – state laws relating to a power of attorney can vary, something that generic POA forms do not take into account. A good POA, therefore, is one that is state-specific.
- Up to date – laws affecting a power of attorney or the authority granted under one are also subject to change. Boilerplate POA forms may have outdated language in them or may fail to include language required by recent changes in the law.
If you wish to give someone power of attorney, or you have been asked to sign a power of attorney form for any reason, it is in your best interest to have an experienced estate planning attorney draft or review the POA form. Contact the experienced New York estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Saul Kobrick, P.C. by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.