Do I need a Power of Attorney for someone to manage my assets if I am unable?
In most cases, people should have a Power of Attorney as part of their estate plan. A Power of Attorney for Property allows you to appoint someone to act on your behalf with regards to your assets in the event that you are unable. There are two kinds: Continuing and Non-Continuing.
A Non-Continuing Power of Attorney allows your attorney, who you have appointed, to manage your assets but it ceases to have effect in the event that you become mentally incapacitated and unable to manage your own affairs. These are generally used for specific purposes where an individual will be unavailable for a relatively short period of time. For instance, someone embarking on an extended holiday may appoint someone as their attorney to deal with banking and investing while they are away.
For most people, a Continuing Power of Attorney is appropriate for their estate plan. This allows someone to manage your assets and their power continues in the event of incapacity. A person (or persons) of your choosing will be able to act on your behalf and make decisions regarding your affairs in your best interests. This may involve small matters such as the paying of monthly utility bills or large matters, such as selling your home should it no longer meet your needs.
If you do not have a Power of Attorney, your family members will be subject to considerable delay and expense in getting someone appointed to act on your behalf; the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee will be involved. Ultimately the person appointed may not be the person you would have chosen.
When preparing a Power of Attorney for Property, it is important to consider who to appoint and what type of powers they should have. The document must be executed in accordance with the legal requirements so it takes effect. These matters can be discussed with a lawyer who can consider your specific needs, ensuring your Power of Attorney works with your estate plan.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This publication is the 38th installment of our firm’s Legal Matters series, which answers a reader’s question every week. If you have a general legal question that you would like to have addressed please send it via email to firstname.lastname@example.org