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Do I need a power of attorney?

Having a power of attorney can be a safe practice for any adult. Why? Because you cannot predict tomorrow. While most people think powers of attorney are only for elder individuals to allow someone to carry out important tasks for them, what will happen if you have an unfortunate incident and become incapacitated for a length of time? Will your loved ones or someone be able to take care of your needs, such as pay your bills, access your bank account or take care of an important transaction you were in the middle of?

Many people are afraid of giving someone power of attorney because they believe they are turning over their assets and rights to him or her. This is not true. When you give someone power of attorney, you set the guidelines as to what the "attorney-in-fact" can do.

The power of attorney can give the person rights to do specific things only in the event that such a misfortune occurs. You get to say what they can and cannot do with your assets. It can also hold them accountable for anything they do with your assets, such as access your bank account to take care of specific bills or care you may need or even continue to run your business in your absence. You can also give a person power of attorney to make decisions on your behalf regarding medical care, selling specific assets if necessary or issuing gifts to your loved ones.

There are two very important things to take into account when you set up your power of attorney. First, make sure you select someone you trust as your "attorney-in-fact." Also, you may want a backup in case that person becomes deceased or is unable to carry out the duties. Revisit the document often to ensure things haven't changed. A once trusted friend or relative can become distant or estranged from you over time.

Second, don't try to draft your power of attorney yourself. Wording is very important, and there may be legalities you have never thought of. Let an attorney who is knowledgeable in estate planning and powers of attorney draft yours for you.

Source: American Bar Association, "Power of Attorney," accessed Oct. 02, 2015

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