Friday, February 20, 2009

Understanding Powers of Attorney

What happens if you become incapacitated? Who can act on your behalf to take care of you and pay your expenses? If you have not made provisions for these events, then a legal guardian, appointed and supervised by the Court, will make these decisions for you. This process causes delay and can be quite costly. These matters can be avoided with a carefully drawn Power of Attorney.

A Power of Attorney permits an individual (your "agent" or "attorney-in-fact") to act your behalf. This delegation of authority can relate to medical directions and/or financial directions. For purposes of this article, we will focus on the two board types of financial powers of attorney: (i) General Power of Attorney and (ii) Limited Power of Attorney.

A General Power of Attorney, like its name implies, gives your agent the immediate authority to handle your financial affairs with little or no restrictions. These matters could include paying your bills, accessing your bank accounts and managing your investments. Unless specifically drafted otherwise, the authority under a General Power of Attorney ends upon incapacity or death.

For this reason, General Powers of Attorney are often drawn to be "durable," meaning that your agent can continue to act for you after incapacity, although the authority to act ends at death. In other instances, an individual may recognize the importance of a General Power of Attorney, but may be uncomfortable granting immediate authority to act on his or her behalf. Rather, he or she may desire assistance only upon the happening of a certain event, such as incapacity. As a result, a General Power of Attorney can be drawn as "springing" so that the agent can spring into action only if an individual becomes incapacitated.

A Limited Power of Attorney gives your agent a limited or special authority to perform certain acts for you. Common uses of a Limited Power of Attorney include handling a real estate transaction and addressing tax matters (which are often permitted only with use of an IRS approved form). By their very nature, Limited Powers of Attorney generally end when the action required of your agent is complete.

To be effective, a Power of Attorney should be carefully worded, and you should seek the assistance of an attorney who routinely advises clients on these matters.

Joshua T. Keleske, P.A. proudly serves families in the Tampa Bay area with their estate planning, estate and trust administration, and business planning needs. If you have questions regarding how we can be of assistance to you and your family, please contact us at anytime at 813-254-0044. We are happy to answer your questions and arrange for an appointment to speak with you.

Please also visit to learn more about Joshua T. Keleske, P.A.

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