How to Avoid a Common Power of Attorney Mistake

If you fail to understand the duties associated with your power of attorney agent, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise. Recognizing how a power of attorney works within your state and the specifics of your document can give you clarity on what to expect and whether or not this aligns with your personal goals. A power of attorney document does not just give your agent legal authority. In fact, it also imposes legal duties.

That agent has a duty to act according to your wishes, which is why a full list of your agent’s duties should be included in your power of attorney document. An agent must follow these requirements and it can sometimes make sense to work with an experienced estate planning lawyer to vary your agent’s duties away from existing statutory requirements.

For example, you might not need the default to keep detailed records. This can require agents to keep every document and receipt and since plenty of agents don’t have time to keep track of this, you could make their job that much easier. Know your state’s default rules so that you can decide whether you want to stay with these or not. If you look at a basic power of attorney form, this might not meet the needs of your specific situation.

Basic power of attorney forms usually don’t include the authority to amend or create trusts, make gifts from your property, delegate the agent’s powers to someone else, or change beneficiary designations on retirement accounts and life insurance. Make sure you set up a time to meet with an experienced estate planning lawyer to discuss how a power of attorney can make sense in your planning.

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