By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney
As an Idaho estate planning attorney I am always keeping an eye out for interesting articles about estate planning and how it helps individuals in their lives. I recently came across an article talking about how an older woman in Texas was taken advantage of by the company providing her lawn care service. Apparently, this woman had entered into a contract to pay about $3,600 each year for her lawn care services. However, the owner of the company discovered that this woman was in the beginning stages of dementia. As a result of this he took advantage of her and over charge her for the services provided. Over a five-year period, the services that should have cost just a little over $16,000 were actually charged at a rate of closer to $50,000. Fortunately, this deception was discovere, and the owner of the lawn care services was charged with several crimes. The article I read did not indicate whether he was forced to pay back the money that was taken from this woman.
After reading this article, and several like it, it reinforced eyes to me the importance of having a basic estate plan for each adult. One of the most important documents in a basic estate plan includes a durable power of attorney. Below are three common questions I often get from individuals about a power of attorney and how it can help them in their lives.
What is a Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney is a basic document that allows an individual to name another person who will have specific abilities to do things for them. When it comes to estate planning, a durable power of attorney is a document that gives an individual the ability to grant authority to another person to do all the things for them that they would normally do for themselves. This includes taking care of their finances, bank accounts, retirement accounts, benefits such as Social Security, in addition to paying bills, dealing with creditors, and handling all other property and assets. Essentially what it does is it gives a person the ability to step into the shoes of the grantor of the power of attorney and take care of them.
In my opinion, a durable power of attorney is perhaps the most important estate planning document an individual can have while they are alive. Unlike a last will and testament that only becomes effective when they die, and only has the power to distribute property money and assets, for a short period of time, a durable power of attorney could last for many years. Because of this it could have an impact on this individual for a long time during their life.
While any power of attorney could be very narrow and specifically limited to certain actions, the most common types of Powers of Attorney in estate planning include a durable power of attorney and a health care power of attorney. The durable power of attorney is more global and usually involves all property, money, assets, and essentially everything else except for health care. Alternatively, a health care power of attorney is usually very narrow in scope and only deals with medical and healthcare related issues.
How Does a Power of Attorney Help an Aging Adult?
This brings us to the next question of how does a power of attorney help an aging adult? In the example above where the elderly woman was taken advantage of by the lawn care service, this would never have happened had a power of attorney existed that was being utilized by this woman’s family. This is because who ever held the power of attorney would have had the ability to review the bills coming in from the lawn care service to determine whether they were accurate or not. If the lawn care service attempted to overcharge this elderly woman, the individual holding the power of attorney could have stopped it.
In my 20 years of Idaho estate planning experience, it appears that when an elderly person begins to have some sort of dementia, or begins to lose the ability to take care of themselves, this usually manifests itself first in the area finances. The pattern usually begins with an elderly person simply forgetting to pay their bills or deal with their finances, which results in late notices from creditors, overdrawn notices from banks, and other very basic and simple financial issues. When this pattern begins to occur, the person holding the power of attorney can simply step in and begin helping or can’t even completely take over the finances of the individual to make sure that they are properly protected.
When Does a Power of Attorney Actually Begin to Work?
One of the most common questions I am asked is when does a power of attorney begin to work. There are several options available to the individual who gets the power of attorney as part of their basic estate planning. They can grant the power of attorney to be effective immediately if they choose. This is often the choice that is used between spouses. When it comes to children, most parents choose to have what we call a springing power of attorney which simply means that it requires a physician(s) to certify in writing that the parent is no longer capable of dealing with their finances or their own health care. When this occurs then the power of attorney springs into place and gives authority to the children.
We have found that when it comes to powers of attorney, and other basic estate planning documents, many individuals have questions. We are happy to answer your questions and help you in any way we can. Having assisted clients for over 70 years, we’re confident that our team of Idaho State planning attorneys can help you to!
ENLIST AN IDAHO ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY TO HELP YOU
When it comes to estate planning or probate you should never try to do it alone. If you have questions for yourself or for your family and loved ones, we can help. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Estate Planning attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.