What is a Durable Power of Attorney and Who Needs One?

Super Power of Attorney

What is a Durable Power of Attorney and Who Needs One?

A durable power of Attorney is a legal document that you sign that gives power to an Agent (someone you trust to act in your best interest, spouse or independent fiduciary) to take action for you because you can’t because you are incapacitated from a medical emergency. It’s “durable” because it lasts even though you have become incapacitated.

Why would you need it?

If you are involved in medical emergency or become suddenly ill someone will still need to pay the bills, make deposits, handle legal and insurance claims, and handle benefits paperwork.

If you don’t have it someone will have to go to court and ask a judge to act as Conservator or as a Guardian. This is all very public and could be potentially embarrassing. If there is some type of conflict about who is being appointed, lawyers are hired, money is spent and there are even more delays and stress.

Who Needs It?

Anyone who owns property, has a bank account, has health insurance, own securities, own a business, have family, etc.

Example 1

Scott is a single man who owns a Santa Rosa, California Real Estate Company and has a car accident on his way to work. He goes into a coma. He owns several properties and financial accounts. In order to pay the bills, his girlfriend of two years will have to get a court order to pay the mortgage and mange his business. Scott’s sister never liked the girlfriend and opposes the order.

Example 2

John and Sue have been married for 25 years and own a nice Santa Rosa home. Sue is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and needs immediate care in a facility. In order to pay for the long term care that Sue desperately needs John will need to sell the house. Sue because of her condition can’t sign the paperwork. John will have to go to court to sell the house.

How do you use it?

The document once signed is in effect and can be used at any financial institution. You want to make sure that the document is signed prior to the incapacity of the individual. You also want to make sure that the Agent (someone you trust to act in your best interest, spouse or independent fiduciary) has access to the document. The Northern California Estate Planning Attorney that you use should have electronic storage available so that your Agent can access the document when needed. The North Bay Estate Planning Attorney that you use should also have a system alerting his firm so that he can help you when you need it the most. 

James Zakasky
An estate attorney who goes beyond drafting wills and creating trusts