Prepare For Your Financial Future With Powers Of Attorney
We all would like to believe we will be healthy and of sound mind throughout our lives, and that we will always be able to care for ourselves. There may come a time, however, when we will need the help of a trusted person to make important decisions on our behalf.
You identify the people you trust by executing a power of attorney, giving them the authority to make decisions about your finances, medical care and end-of-life matters if you become unable to make them for yourself. The time to designate your representative is now, when you have the capacity to do so. Waiting too long can prevent your wishes from being carried out, result in unnecessary expenses and delays, and cause you to miss important planning opportunities.
Powers Of Attorney
A durable power of attorney is a document by which you (the principal) designate someone as your agent or attorney-in-fact, and give that person the authority to make decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself. Typically, the agent is a family member or a trusted friend. You can limit your agent’s level of authority to a single transaction (limited power of attorney), or you can give your agent broad powers to do anything you could do if you were able to act on your own behalf. Powers of attorney are usually effective from the time they are executed until the time they are revoked or until the death of the principal. Powers of attorney can be set up to go into effect only upon your incapacity. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this method, but we believe the disadvantages outweigh the advantages in most cases.
Most people don’t realize it, but one spouse does not have the right to sign checks or legal documents for the other spouse unless there is a validly executed power of attorney. In some cases, a power of attorney can be as important as a will, because it involves the exercise of discretion for the best interests of the principal for the rest of his or her life.
Strange as it may seem, a power of attorney in New jersey becomes void when the principal becomes incapacitated. That is the opposite of what logic tells us, because most people want a power of attorney for when they need help with their finances. Nevertheless, the New Jersey Power of Attorney Act says that a power of attorney is no longer effective when the principal becomes incapacitated, UNLESS the document specifically provides for it to be “durable” — in other words to remain effective even if the principal becomes incapacitated.
Commercially Available Documents
Be careful when you think about purchasing a power of attorney form online or from a stationery superstore. Those documents may be cheap, but cheap can be expensive. We have seen such documents that are useless in New Jersey when the principal becomes incapacitated because the “durability” language is missing. Also, commercially available documents now invariably recommend consultation with a lawyer. That is good advice. Executing a document that is offered to everyone, without regard to their specific needs can result in your not including provisions you need because you did not receive any legal advice.
Discuss Your Questions Confidentially With A Lawyer
At the law office of Rudolph and Bloodgood, LLC, in Riverdale, we have helped numerous clients in New Jersey with various powers of attorney that clearly set out the authority given to your representatives and your wishes should you become critically ill.
Schedule your initial consultation with one of our attorneys by contacting us online or calling 973-208-2900. Our office in Riverdale is handicap-accessible and has adequate off-street parking. We are available during regular business hours and are convenient to New Jersey Route 23 and Route I-287.
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