Powers of attorney: Legal execution and when it goes into effect

| Jan 12, 2021 | Estate Planning |

Estate planning encompasses a series of strategies for a person to protect his or her assets and to make sure their needs and desires are met in the future. This goes beyond a will or a trust and extends to making sure that their affairs are handled as they want them to be even if they become incapacitated. A power of attorney is used to appoint another individual to manage the finances in such an event. When considering a power of attorney, there are many factors to consider. Before going into detail, it is essential to understand when the document is legally executed and when it will go into effect. As with any legal concern, it can be beneficial to have legal advice.

Executing the power of attorney and when it will be effective

People run into problems if the power of attorney or any estate planning document has its validity called into question. There are key points that must be in place for the power of attorney to be legal and valid. It must be signed by the person (the principal) or another person who is in that person’s presence and signs it at his or her direction. It also must be signed by a person who is at least 14-years-old and is of sound mind to serve as a witness. The witnesses must swear that the principal acted in his or her presence. The signatures must be notarized, as must the power of attorney.

The power of attorney becomes effective when it is executed or if the principal gives a fixed date or says specific circumstances must be in place. With the future event necessitating it going into effect, the principal can give authorization to one or more people to decide that the event has happened. If the principal becomes incapacitated and the power of attorney goes into effect but no person was authorized to determine that incapacitation has occurred or does not want to do so, a physician or psychologist can make the determination. It can also be made by a lawyer, a judge or a government official.

Estate planning may be complex and legal assistance can be useful

With a power of attorney or any other part of an estate plan, issues can become muddled and people may not be cognizant of everything involved with the document and its legal requirements. To ensure that the principal or testator’s desires are clear and followed, it is wise to have legal assistance to complete a comprehensive and legally applicable document. Calling for advice and help from the start can be a smart step and will go a long way in a well-crafted estate plan.