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What is a Power of Attorney?

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By Nathan Palmer

A power of attorney is a document which provides authority for an individual to act on behalf of another. Most commonly, discussions of powers of attorney relate to either a financial power of a attorney or a power of attorney for health care. These powers of attorney should be included in every individual’s estate plan as early as possible to help avoid the necessity for court intervention in the event that an individual becomes mentally incompetent.

  • FINANCIAL POWER OF ATTORNEY

In general, a financial power of attorney (a.k.a. general power of attorney or power of attorney for financial affairs) is a document signed by an individual which provides authority for a trusted family member, friend, or other person, (“agent”) to mange the individual’s financial matters. Often, this management allows the agent to step into the shoes of the individual to perform several acts, including the following:

    1. Management of the individual’s bank accounts, including withdrawing funds, drafting checks against the accounts, and establishing direct deposits/withdrawals.
    2. Buying and selling stocks, mutual funds, and other securities on behalf of the individual.
    3. Communicating with the individual’s retirement benefit provider and making decisions regarding the same.
    4. Buying and selling land, homes, and other real property or other property which requires the individual’s signature on a deed or title.
    5. Transferring assets to the individual’s trust.
    6. Management or operating of a business entity in which the individual holds a controlling interest.
    7. Engage in litigation on the individual’s behalf or for the collection of debts owed to the individual.
    8. Obtaining or managing a safe deposit box, and handling other matters with the post office.
    9. Communicating with the Social Security Administration regarding the individual’s benefits.
    10. To employ agents to act on behalf of the individual, including the hiring of home health care.

Financial powers of attorney are one of the most important documents an individual can obtain while he or she is capable of understanding the powers he or she is granting to the agent. Once an individual no longer has the mental capacity to sign a financial power of attorney the only alternative is to obtain a court-supervised conservatorship which is expensive, intrusive, and burdensome.

  • POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR HEALTH CARE

A power of attorney for health care is equally as important as the financial power of attorney. A power of attorney for health care allows an agent to make medical decisions on behalf of the individual in the event the individual is unable to make decisions regarding his or her medical care. These powers include the power to access and disseminate medical records and to make decisions regarding the individual’s medical treatment.

A power of attorney for health care can help avoid the necessity for a court-supervised guardianship action. Family and friends may seek appointment from a court to act as the individual’s guardian once the individual is unable to make decisions regarding his or her care. Guardianships, like conservatorships, are to be avoided, if possible.

At Racine Olson we regularly draft powers of attorney for clients to help meet our clients’ needs. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation with Nathan Palmer and the Racine Olson team of Idaho Estate Planning and Medicaid Planning attorneys in Pocatello, Idaho Falls, or Boise. You can also email Nathan Palmer directly at nrp@racinelaw.net. We will answer your questions regarding powers of attorney and help you determine a plan to meet your needs.