What is a Durable Power of Attorney?

Date: 05/12/22

Author: Prime Law Group

About half of adults have a power of attorney, with 73% of seniors over 72 having one. However, younger adults often fail to have estate planning documents like this. Only 41% of millennials have a power of attorney in place.

Many people feel estate planning documents are only for older adults. It’s critical for any adult to have planning documents such as a durable power of attorney and a will in effect. Doing so can provide many benefits to you and your loved ones.

Let’s take a look at what a durable power of attorney is, who needs one, and how to get one.

What Is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney (POA) gives someone else permission to handle some affairs on your behalf. Most commonly, this includes your finances, legal matters, or health care.

The person that you appoint to act on your behalf is called your agent or attorney in fact. They don’t need to be a lawyer and can be either an individual or a company.

A power of attorney can be general and include a wide variety of situations. Or you can create limited powers of attorney that only apply in certain circumstances.

For example, a power of attorney for finances gives your agent the ability to handle your finances. When you create a power of attorney, your lawyer can help you specifically list what authority your agent has and does not have.

What Is a Durable POA?

If you become mentally incompetent, an ordinary power of attorney would no longer be valid. However, a durable power of attorney can help in this situation. 

When a POA is durable, it stays in effect even if you become incapacitated or otherwise cannot make decisions on your own behalf. This can give you healthcare and financial assistance through your agent in the event of an illness or accident.

Many people choose to create a general durable POA to allow their agent to make many different decisions. However, you could get a durable healthcare or finance POA to focus on more specific concerns.

When Is a Durable Power of Attorney Helpful?

A durable power of attorney is helpful in planning for medical emergencies or declines in mental wellness and functioning. You can still make sure your finances and other matters will be cared for thoughtfully.

Since you create a durable power of attorney before these situations take place, they can help prevent confusion during a time that may be difficult for loved ones.

Durable medical power of attorneys can help your loved ones make medical decisions for you in the event you are unable. This is true even if you are expected to make a full recovery.

It’s important to note that durable healthcare power of attorneys is not the same as advanced directives or living wills. Living wills cover your treatment when you are at the end of your life and cannot communicate any longer. You can have both and in some cases combine a living will and durable medical POA into one document.

Who Needs a Durable Power of Attorney?

If you don’t have a general durable power of attorney and become incapacitated, your family may not be able to just start taking care of your finances. In many cases, they would have to go to court to have you declared mentally incompetent. 

Only after this happens can they begin doing things such as filing tax returns, managing bills, and bank accounts, and applying for government benefits. This delay can make things tough for your loved ones and lead to issues such as late bills.

Because of this, it’s recommended that everyone have a durable power of attorney in place just in case of unforeseen circumstances. Even something as common as a car accident could put you in a state where you cannot make the necessary decisions in your life. 

Many young people put off planning until they are older. But if you have a family or anyone else who depends on you, you should have a durable POA in place to make sure your finances and other matters can be handled.

However, there are also cases where it is especially critical to have one. If you are advancing in age or are at an elevated risk for medical emergencies or changes where you may be unable to make decisions, you should create a durable power of attorney before you are unable. 

Many people worry that power of attorneys are permanent documents. However, as long as you are mentally competent, you can revoke your power of attorney at any time. This means you can take advantage of the protection offered by POAs without being worried about the inability to change them if your circumstances change.

How Do You Create a Durable Power of Attorney?

You can easily find do-it-yourself durable power of attorney forms online. While these are affordable and easy to use, they are very cookie-cutter and may not be the best option for you.

Instead, it’s better to discuss your particular needs with an attorney. They will be able to assess your situation and needs and take into account your financial, estate planning, and medical planning needs. In addition, an attorney will know if there are local or state laws that could affect your POA. 

When you are ready to create your durable power of attorney, start by finding a trusted lawyer that works in estate planning. They will be able to walk you through the process of creating your durable POA and putting it into effect.

While you are discussing this aspect of your plans, it may also be a good time to consider your other wishes and draw up a will and any other documents that you wish. 

Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones with a Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney is a powerful planning tool for adults of any age. It can help ensure your loved ones can make healthcare and financial decisions if you are unable to. While you may never need to invoke it, this ability can make sure your estate is handled efficiently and by the people you want.

If you’re ready to create your durable POA in Illinois, call Prime Law Group today.

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