You are not alone if you dread the days when you will no longer have control of your circumstances. Perhaps you fear that your health will fail, and you will not be able to perform routine tasks, manage your finances or take care of yourself. It is not easy to imagine having to rely on others for those basic needs, but it is a common event in many lives.
One way to plan for the possibility that you may need help with your legal and financial issues is to sign a power of attorney. Granting power of attorney to a trusted agent means your loved ones will not have to go through the courts to get permission to handle your important matters if you should become ill or incapacitated. However, it is important that you understand the general terms of a POA and dispel any misconceptions you may have.
Don’t wait too long
One common mistake people make is waiting too long to sign a POA. You will not be able to give your loved ones authority over your finances and legal matters if you become mentally incapacitated. At this point, your family will have no choice but to begin a heartbreaking and expensive legal process to obtain the right to manage your affairs.
Signing over power is not something anyone relishes. In fact, like many in Louisiana, you may have heard stories of POA abuse that make you hesitate to sign such a document. However, these are uncommon events, and you can take precautions to protect yourself from becoming a victim. The most important step is to choose an agent who is trustworthy and who understands the fiduciary duty of a power of attorney agent.
Making your POA count
Just because you grant power to an agent does not mean that agent has the authority to do whatever he or she wants with your assets. By law, your POA agent may not take any action related to your estate that does not benefit you.
You may also specify the actions your agent may take by using a limited or special power of attorney. In fact, you may customize your POA documents to meet your specific needs. If you wish to do this, and many advisors recommend it, you should avoid using a generic POA from a website, and seek the counsel of an attorney. Online POAs may not address Louisiana laws or may be too ambiguous to avoid disputes when you need your POA most.