A power of attorney is an essential legal document to have, and you might be tempted to search for a form online. But you should avoid free legal documents that you find online, as they may turn out to be useless.
A power of attorney may sound pretty straightforward. You might be tempted to download a free form to take care of it when looking for services online. But will that be enough to ensure the document is legally recognized, important matters are handled quickly, and your specific instructions are followed?
Understanding Powers of Attorney
A Power of Attorney (POA) designates a trusted individual to make decisions or conduct transactions on your behalf, and is an integral part of your estate plan. A properly prepared POA allows the agent to sign checks, handle bank accounts, sell property, manage assets, and file taxes when you are unable. This POA has a wide latitude of authority. Therefore, there needs to be coordination between you and your agent to ensure your best interests are always represented.
A power of attorney may give permanent or temporary authority to the agent you appoint. You can set the POA up to invoke immediately. Or, you can have it activate when a future event, such as a physical disability, occurs. The latter is a “springing” power of attorney.
The better-known powers of attorney are durable and take effect if you are incapacitated. The word “durable” means the powers will remain intact even when you can no longer manage your affairs.
Consider the following scenarios, when free, online powers of attorney don’t prove as helpful as you may have hoped.
Suppose a business colleague wants you to take care of their business operations. You become responsible for making critical decisions while they are out of the country.
They give you POA by using a free online legal document that promises to contain everything you need to comply with state law. The document seems noticeably concise. You wonder why legal documents need to be so lengthy and expensive in the first place.
When you go to your friend’s bank to transfer funds, the bank denies you access. You discover why: the POA did not meet all legal requirements. Your friend had no knowledge of these requirements, and now you won’t able to contact them for several weeks.
When you track them down, they must fill out additional forms with the bank and get them notarized before you attempt any more transactions. The legal document failed, another reason to avoid free legal documents you find online.
Long Term Care
Your father needs urgent nursing home care. He is looking at long-term care costs of possibly $15,000 per month or more. However, you know he lives on a fixed income, and that Medicare doesn’t cover long-term care services. You need to engage in urgent Medicaid planning such as gifting and transferring assets so that he can be eligible for Medicaid as soon as possible.
But the POA document prepared through a free online service does not have all the powers and authority required, and you end up needing to go to court for a long and expensive guardianship proceeding that cost many thousands of dollars and strained family relationships. Another legal document failure.
Why You Should Avoid Free Legal Documents Online
How can online documents be legally approved for use by the public but insufficient when you need to use them? The POA document that you may have believed would prove helpful in the scenarios above only offered general information for the most basic needs. With so many variables in finances, business, and related situations, the language is often not specific enough to address the unique problem.
When you get a POA through an experienced elder law and estate planning firm, each document contains wording regarding several circumstances and coordinates with the rest of the estate plan. Additional details instruct the person you’ve chosen to act on your behalf when dealing with decisions regarding estate and long term care planning. For example, it may permit them to set up a trust, reorganize assets, and open and close banking or investment accounts.
Connect With an Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney
You should avoid free legal documents you find online. A free online power of attorney could cost you valuable time, money, and frustration. Many other legal considerations determine how your power of attorney will work.
The best way to establish powers of attorney is to consult with the experienced elder law and estate planning attorneys at Kurre Schneps to ensure you are prepared to handle any situation. The biggest benefit of having these matters settled before you become unable to handle your affairs is allowing your family to care for you instead of being caught up in logistics.