The Importance Of Powers Of Attorney
Effective October 1, 2010 Maryland passed the “Maryland General and Limited Power of Attorney Act.” New execution requirements have been enacted and Maryland now has a statutory power of attorney which gives your designated agent better protection to assert themselves as your agent. Commonly referred to as “Loretta's Law,” the measure was partially the result of one family member abusing the power entrusted to her by her elderly aunt. Powers of attorney should only be granted to persons whom you trust and who are able and willing to carry out your wishes.
This document is perhaps the most important legal document that you should have. A Power of Attorney can be in place for both financial and medical decision making when you are no longer able to make your own decisions. The document is only valid while you are living. The purpose is to name someone to step into your shoes and handle your financial matters for you only when you are unable to do so yourself. The same person or a different person will also be named to make health care decisions if you cannot decide for yourself. You are the authority to make health care and financial decisions if you are able. The document is essential if you become incapacitated, even if that incapacity is temporary.
If you do not have this important document and you become incapacitated, then your loved ones will have to file a guardianship. A guardianship proceeding is designed to protect you. A spouse is not automatically appointed as your guardian. If you have children from a first marriage, then they have the right to petition the court to act as your guardian. The Judge decides who will become your guardian. After that decision is made, your guardian is to file an annual accounting to the court reporting how they are managing and spending your money.
I suggest that you retain the original of both your health care and financial powers of attorney and tell your agent where they might find the document if it is necessary for them to act for you. The original should be in a fireproof, waterproof safe at home or at a safe deposit box at a bank. If at the bank, then you should consider adding your agent as an owner of the safe deposit box for their easy access.
To prevent your family from having to endure a court case and to make any incapacity on your part a little easier for them, you should make sure that you have a Property Power of Attorney and a Health Care Power of Attorney. These documents should be prepared by an attorney. A power of attorney is not a costly document to obtain from an attorney. Do your family and loved ones a huge favor and set an appointment to meet with a qualified estate planning attorney today.
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