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Do I need power of attorney?

I am a co-signer or joint-account holder on my Mom's checking, savings, and credit card accounts. I'm also listed by name on her Living Trust (for when she is gone) and with her health insurance (so I can make those calls for her and help her with that). Do I also need to get a formal power of attorney to do her financial business? What would that do for us that we haven't already taken care of? And, if it's needed, how do I do that? Do I have to go to a lawyer? I've been doing her bookkeeping and financial business for over a year now with no significant problems.
Status: Open    May 17, 2015 - 05:07 AM

Elder Law

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Jul 28, 2015 - 12:45 PM

A well drafted financial power of attorney is an absolute must for not only the elder, but for the agent acting on behalf of the elder.
A power of attorney goes well beyond accessing assets (which may be achieved as a joint owner) but provides the agent legal authority to make important financial planning decisions such as long-term care planning for Medicaid or veterans aid & attendance benefits. A well drafted financial power of attorney will also provide authority for the agent to manage insurance issues, lawsuits, tax returns and many other details. Failing to have a power of attorney for an elder who no longer has capacity may require the family to go to court and request a guardian to be appointed. For many elder, who are afraid of losing control, the only real way to keep control is to sign a carefully prepared power of attorney that names a trusted agent to act in his or her best interests.

Jul 30, 2015 - 08:02 AM

The question is not whether “you” need a power of attorney. The question is whether or not it is in the best interests of your mother to have the proper powers of attorney. The answer is undoubtedly “Yes.”

A person (legally referred to as a “Principal”) can execute powers of attorney in all shapes and sizes and for numerous purposes. Usually, a person working on their estate plan will execute two separate powers of attorney: (i) one general power – pertaining to business and finances; and (ii) a healthcare power of attorney – for medical purposes. Both are usually “springing” powers, and both are usually “durable,” meaning they survive the incapacity of the principal.

Remember that a person must have the proper capacity to execute powers of attorney. If they do not have appropriate capacity, it may be “too late” to execute the powers of attorney. In such a case, you may need to look at your options regarding conservatorship proceedings.

Jul 31, 2015 - 08:02 AM

Yes, it is best if you have a formal power of attorney. If Mom ends up going into a nursing home or having capacity issues, merely being a co-signer on her accounts will not be enough to be able to take care of all financial business that you might need to handle. For example, if you need to transfer any real estate that she owns or cash out any life insurance or change beneficiaries, you will need a formal power of attorney. You should have a lawyer prepare the power of attorney to ensure that it will allow it complies with all of the legal requirements.

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