The Durable Power of Attorney: What It Is and Why You Need One

Life is nothing if not unpredictable. No one expects to be abruptly incapacitated until it happens to them. Whether you suddenly fall ill for a short period of time or find yourself in a coma following a car accident, you’ll want to make sure that you already have everything in place you may need to ensure all of your obligations are fulfilled and that your wishes are carried out as you intended.

The fact is, when we are unable to function and live our lives as we normally would, life does not stop for us. The world keeps turning and there are numerous practical matters that will continue to require the attention you can no longer provide. In such cases, a Durable Power of Attorney can help.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document that provides an individual you name (the “agent”) with a legal right to act on your behalf without having to get further permission or go to the trouble of seeking a conservatorship. A durable power of attorney will take effect only when you are incapacitated. It can either be limited to a few tasks or expanded generally to any tasks that you might need. You can personalize the document to provide certain legal rights to your agent that best suit your circumstances.

Do you need one?

Yes—everyone should have safeguards in place to take care of your affairs while you are incapacitated. A Living Will—a legal document that dictates your wishes while you are still alive but incapacitated or facing an end of life situation (known as “advance directives”)—should be included alongside a durable power of attorney in order to provide instructions for your specific wishes.

If you are alive but your health is failing, then you may not be in the right mindset or physically able to pay your bills, make medical decisions, or care for your property. Having a power of attorney in place will alleviate the stress of managing those affairs when you are no longer able to do so.

When deciding on an agent for your durable power of attorney, make sure it is someone that you can trust completely. The power of attorney should be someone who will be able to understand your finances and would respect your wishes.

What can a durable power of attorney accomplish?

A durable power of attorney can encompass as little or as much as you want. You can even have two power of attorneys: one for finances or other legal decisions, and one for medical decisions. Doing this can allow you to distribute the burden amongst several people in difficult times. And keep in mind, even if you are married or have children, they may not have legal authority to carry out certain tasks for you if you become incapacitated, so you may still have to draft a durable power of attorney naming that loved one as your agent.

The unexpected can strike at any time, no matter your age or other circumstances. Everyone can benefit from having a strong, enforceable durable power of attorney in place to protect them should the unthinkable happen. If you are interested in creating a durable power of attorney, please contact the law office of Luis E. Barreto & Associates today!

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Written by Luis E. Barreto

Luis E. Barreto

Luis is a probate and guardianship litigator with over 23 years of experience in the field. Determination of heirs, will contests, breaches of fiduciary duty, removal of personal representatives, guardians and trustees are just some of the types of litigation he addresses. In addition, he administers non-contested estates and guardianships.