evans and davis badge
Understanding the Role of a Financial Power of Attorney in Your Estate Plan

Understanding Financial Power of Attorney: A Simple Guide and Why You Need an Attorney

When planning for the future, one crucial document in a comprehensive estate plan is a Financial Power of Attorney (POA). This legal tool can provide peace of mind and ensure that your financial matters are managed according to your wishes, even if you cannot do so yourself. Let's break down what a Financial POA is, the different types available, what it does, how it works, and why working with an attorney is essential for creating one.

Types of Financial Power of Attorney

There are two main types of Financial Power of Attorney:

  • Durable Power of Attorney: This is the most common type of POA. It remains in effect even if you become incapacitated due to illness, injury, or age. This ensures your finances are managed seamlessly throughout your life.
  • Springing Power of Attorney: This type of POA only becomes effective when a specific event occurs, such as when you become mentally incapacitated as determined by a doctor. Until then, you retain full control over your finances.

What Does a Financial Power of Attorney Do?

A Financial Power of Attorney empowers your chosen agent to manage various aspects of your financial life. The specific powers granted can be broad or limited, depending on your needs and preferences. 

Here are some of the key tasks an agent can perform under a Financial POA:

  • Managing Bank Accounts: Your agent can handle everyday banking tasks such as depositing and withdrawing funds, writing checks, and managing your accounts.
  • Paying Bills: They can ensure your bills are paid on time, including utilities, mortgage or rent, insurance premiums, and other expenses.
  • Handling Investments: Your agent can manage your investment portfolio, including buying and selling stocks, bonds, and other securities.
  • Filing Taxes: They can prepare and file your state and federal income tax returns, ensuring compliance with tax laws.
  • Real Estate Transactions: Your agent can buy, sell, lease, or manage real estate properties on your behalf.
  • Managing Debts and Loans: They can handle any debts or loans you have, including making payments and negotiating terms.
  • Insurance Matters: Your agent can manage your insurance policies, including filing claims and making necessary payments.
  • Fund Assets to your Revocable Trust: If needed, your agent can move assets into your revocable trust.

How Does a Financial Power of Attorney Work?

  1. Choosing an Agent: The first step is selecting a trustworthy agent. This could be a family member, a close friend, or a professional like a lawyer or accountant. Choosing someone responsible and reliable is crucial since they'll have significant control over your finances.
  2. Creating the Document: An attorney can draft a POA that meets all legal requirements and accurately reflects your wishes. Attorneys understand the intricacies of local laws and can tailor the document to your specific needs, ensuring it's legally binding and avoids common pitfalls.
  3. Signing the POA: Most states require the POA to be signed in the presence of a notary public, and some may also require witnesses. An attorney can guide you through this process, ensuring all necessary steps are followed to avoid any validity issues.
  4. Using the POA: Once signed, if immediate, your agent can start acting on your behalf according to the powers specified. They might manage your bank accounts, pay bills, file taxes, or handle real estate transactions. An attorney can provide guidance to your agent to ensure they understand their responsibilities and limitations.

Benefits of a Financial Power of Attorney

  • Peace of Mind: Knowing someone you trust can manage your finances if you cannot.
  • Continuity: Ensures that your financial obligations are met without interruption, regardless of your situation.
  • Flexibility: Can be tailored to meet your specific needs and can be as broad or as limited as you choose.

A Financial Power of Attorney is a powerful tool for managing your financial affairs, especially in times of incapacity or unavailability. By understanding the different types (durable vs. springing) and what they offer, you can make informed decisions about your financial future. The importance of working with an attorney cannot be overstated. An attorney ensures that your POA is legally sound and tailored to your needs and provides the expertise and peace of mind necessary for such a significant document. Taking this proactive step with professional guidance can ensure that your finances are in good hands, protecting your interests and those of your loved ones.