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Why do I need a Durable Power of Attorney?

Last month, I answered the question of what is a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA).  This month, I’d like to discuss the reasons for why someone needs to have such a document.

First of all, many people believe that they do not need to do their estate planning until they are “old”.  Ask my twelve year old what “old” is… and she’ll tell you that you are not old until you are over 80 (and then she’ll lean over and say, “but if they are over 80, not until they are 90”).  You would be wrong to make the assumption that estate planning doesn’t have to occur until you are “old”.

As I’ve written previously, once your child turns 18 and becomes an “adult”, if you want to have any control over their finances, school issues, health care issues, etc., you need to have them sign a DPOA and a health care surrogate designation (for the health care issues).  You think that just because you pay the bill for college that you are entitled to look at their grades?  Think again – you are not entitled to speak to the school about your adult child unless they have given their permission and a DPOA gives you the permission.  I always ramp up my “campaign” to help educate parents of college-bound students regarding the need for the DPOA, and it never ceases to amaze me how people are still unaware of this fact.

The point of having a DPOA is to insure that, if you become incapacitated or unable to handle your financial affairs, that you have appointed someone to do it for you.  If you do not have a DPOA and you become incapacitated, it may be necessary to file for guardianship which requires having the court declare you to be “incapacitated” and take away your rights (to contract, vote, marry, etc.).  The court then appoints someone to be your guardian and to make decisions for you.  Anyone at any age can become incapacitated – Terry Schiavo taught us that.

Single parents should most definitely have a DPOA (as well as someone named who would be designated a guardian over their minor children if the other parent is not alive), as should married couples.  There is a common misconception that being married to someone gives them the right to make financial and health care decisions on behalf of the other spouse.  That is not true.  In order for anyone to have the power to sign on your behalf or access bank accounts or make other financial decisions, you must have a DPOA appointing an individual, even your spouse.

For over 20 years, Laurie Ohall has been serving the legal needs of Tampa Bay area families. Ms. Ohall is a Florida Board Certified Elder Law Attorney, and is also licensed in the state of Ohio.  It is her mission in the practice of law to protect, honor and educate her clients.  She advocates on behalf of her clients in the areas of Medicaid Reform and resident’s rights (in ALFs and nursing homes). She also provides clients with comprehensive estate planning including wills, trusts, and advanced healthcare directives, and gives Tampa area seniors and their children piece of mind as they navigate Florida Elder Laws. Her blog is updated regularly to educate Florida residents about the laws affecting seniors, estate planning and probate.

(813) 438-8503   1127 Nikki View Drive,  Brandon FL 33511


Laurie Ohall

Laurie Ohall is a Florida Board Certified Elder Law Attorney based in Brandon (Tampa), Florida. Ms. Ohall is a sought after expert in the area of elder law, probate, estate planning, special needs planning and guardianship. You can find her on twitter at @ohalllaw,  LinkedIn, Facebook , and Google +.

 

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