As I have always told my clients, a power of attorney is as important, if not more important to you, as your will. Yet most people pay far more attention to the drafting of their will and give their POA little thought. How so?
A last will and testament establishes my desires as to whom and in what manner I wish to leave my possessions and assets. While meaningful to me, it is more relevant to the persons receiving those assets after I die. A power of attorney, however, is critical to my well being, most often used at a time when I am most vulnerable, when I can no longer take care of my own affairs and need the assistance of the person or persons whom I designate as my agent(s).
However, the power of attorney has always been an afterthought. Before computers, a common response to the need for a POA was to pick up a preprinted document from the stationery store, one that says in effect “I give my agent the authority to do anything that I can do as a principal”, with language no more specific than that. Today’s version would be to print the document from a website found on the internet, such as LegalZoom.com. Even when an attorney drafts the document, a one size fits all approach can be detrimental to the client. I think that the ease with which this document can be created has led to it’s being devalued in the eyes of the general public. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A couple of recent situations that we faced in our office with powers of attorney drafted by our office and by another attorney highlight the importance of the document and how critical a role it plays in achieving our client’s goals and objectives. Next week I’ll share those experiences with you.