We don’t like to think about bad things happening, but it’s always best to prepare for the worst, regardless. Establishing a Power of Attorney is an excellent way to be ready and ensure that you have someone assigned to make decisions on your behalf should the time come when you need it.
Not only can this secure your plans in these situations, but it allows you to have peace of mind in the meantime. This fact is precious when you have a large estate for various details to handle with your affairs.
Before you sign a Power of Attorney, though, you need to know what it is, the different types, and the crucial details. Not all situations call for a Power of Attorney, and if you pursue one, you want to be specific about what it will cover. Not all powers of attorney are alike, so it is always wise to reach out to an attorney who can help you sort out the details.
What is a Power of Attorney (POA)?
A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives someone you select (your “agent”) the right to act on your behalf. These documents allow a person to handle a friend or family member’s medical or financial affairs. Sometimes they are used so that another person can help to care for their children as well.
A Power of Attorney does not have to be permanent. You can always have the document withdrawn if you are of sound mind.
You can also customize a Power of Attorney to fit your needs. You can include as many or as few services as you desire. It is not a decision to be taken lightly. You need to make sure you trust the person you select as your agent, as someone can abuse these powers if they are so inclined. Discussing your situation with an estate planning attorney is the best course of action to get you on the right path.
9 Important Things to Know About a Power of Attorney in Utah
1. Power of Attorney vs. Guardianship or Conservatorship
Guardianship and conservatorship gives someone else the ability to act for you, much like the Power of Attorneys. You can’t make someone a guardian on your own like you can a Power of Attorney — a judge grants it.
So, the person who desires to be your guardian or conservator must apply through the court system. Guardianships and conservatorships get granted when a person cannot take care of themselves, but a judge makes that decision based on several factors.
2. How Long Does a Power of Attorney Last?
How long your Power of Attorney lasts is up to you, unless there are other laws in your jurisdiction that prevent it. For instance, you can assign one while you are out of the country for a few weeks, and ensure that it dissolves when you return. You can also set it to go in effect only after a specific event, such as a disability or accident.
3. How to Choose an Agent
Just as choosing your lawyer shouldn’t be taken lightly, neither should choosing your agent. Your agent needs to be a person you trust to adhere to your best interests.
It is important that you discuss the matter extensively with your prospective agent before choosing them as your agent. Express your needs and concerns, and answer any questions they have. Make it clear what it means for them to be your agent and go over the responsibilities it entails. They must be willing to act in your best interest at all times. You can name another agent if your first choice can not take on the responsibility.
4. What To Do After You Have the Document
Once you have drawn up your document with your attorney, give the signed Power of Attorney to your agent. If they have the original, they can show it as proof of authority. If your agent can make decisions on your buildings, house, or any land or property you own, then you may file a Power of Attorney with the County Recorder’s Office. File it in the same county of the property location.
5. How to End a Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney can be ended at any time, as long as you are mentally competent. It also ends on its own when you pass away or if you become mentally incompetent–unless otherwise stated.
The best route to revoke your Power of Attorney is to prepare your revocation in writing and before a notary. The person that previously had the power needs notification that the person revoked the power. It gets filed with the county recorder’s office of the county where you own real property, if you previously filed a power of attorney. In addition it is a good idea to send notice of revocation of the POA to each institution that your agent interacted with using the now revoked POA.
6. Alzheimer’s or Mental Illness
You cannot grant a Power of Attorney to a person if that person has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or mental illness that impairs cognitive ability. The agent you select must be of sound mind and demonstrably competent for the future.
If a person has a mental deficiency, they may not be considered competent under the law. You’ll need to find out if they are considered competent before pursuing a Power of Attorney. If they are not competent, there are other avenues you can take. Some alternatives could be to file for guardianship or conservatorship in court.
7. Medical Powers of Attorney
The Utah Advance Healthcare Directive includes a medical power of attorney. It has two parts. The first has you select someone to act on your medical affairs for you. The person is your agent.
The second portion of the document allows you to tell your healthcare provider your desires for medical treatment. This could include things like life support and organ donation.
You are not legally obligated to have the form notarized, nor are you required to have an attorney file it for you, however, as we mentioned previously it is highly recommended that you do in order to protect your interests and avoid costly mistakes with your future healthcare.
8. Financial Powers of Attorney
A financial Power of Attorney allows someone to handle your finances. These powers of attorney are generally simple, but if you have a large estate, they can quickly become more complicated.
Some everyday tasks for the financial powers of attorney include sorting through your mail and email, paying bills, depositing checks, paying taxes, and monitoring your investments.
9. Caring for Minor Children
Sometimes you may want to give your Power of Attorney rights to help care for your children. In this case, the Power of Attorney will only last for six months. It may not work in all situations, though. For instance, schools may need more than just a Power of Attorney for anyone who isn’t a parent. It’s best to consult an attorney to figure out if your situation applies and plan accordingly. It is a smart idea if you are traveling without your minor children internationally.
Create a Power of Attorney
It’s important to take your future into your own hands. Allowing the courts to appoint a guardian for you disallows you the power to decide for yourself how you wish to be cared for. Don’t wait until it’s too late to plan for the possibility. By creating a Power of Attorney, your financial and medical needs are in your control, even if the day comes when you can no longer make those decisions for yourself.
At ProvenLaw, our years of expertise and proven practices are employed to offer clarity, resolution, and peace for our clients and their loved ones. Whether you need to adjust an existing trust or are looking to create a new one, to draft a power of attorney, a trust or a will, or to plan for your estate in any other capacity, please contact us for your complimentary personal consultation and we’ll get you on the road to peace of mind.