Orange County Powers of Attorney
Powers of Attorney (POA) are powerful tools for the head of a household to determine how his or her estate is managed. It can allow you to ensure your opinions and views are taken into account when you are medically indisposed, both in terms of how your medical treatment and finances are handled. Most workers assume powers of attorney are reserved for upper-class families to manage large estates or trusts, but it can also be an invaluable tool for middle-class families.
If you are worried about the future of your estate or medical treatment, contact the Orange County estate planning attorneys at Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie to learn about the advantages of a power of attorney. We can explain all your options as a California resident and work with you to build a thorough estate plan for your household and family. Call us at (949) 752-7474.
Essentially, a Power of Attorney is a legally binding document that states who will act as your representative in legal matters when you are unable to. It is primarily used to determine who will manage your financial assets or medical decisions if you are indisposed, such as in a coma. A POA is an invaluable document for middle-aged or older adults who want to ensure their home, cars, taxes, life insurance, or social security benefits are all properly managed. It is also useful for small business owners, such as contractors, engineers, and artists, who are interested in making long-term decisions about their finances.
This document can include who you are charging with representing you (your agent), how long they will have the Power of Attorney, what tasks he or she must complete as your agent, and what limits they have to obey. You may have multiple agents who have Power of Attorney and can assign them different tasks. The most important aspect of who you give Power of Attorney is how trustworthy and reliable he or she is. You will want these individuals to have the competency to make decisions you would approve of and the loyalty to ensure your best wishes are accounted for.
The two most common types of Power of Attorney are:
Financial Power of Attorney: Individuals listed in this document can make decisions regarding your financial assets and estate, such as ensuring your bills or mortgage is paid. They can set up trusts on your behalf to provide support to your children, nieces, and nephews, or to a charity of your choice.
Medical Power of Attorney: This is the most common type of Power of Attorney that people know about. This document states who will make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to. Your agent can make important decisions like what surgeries and treatments you agree to, or what treatments you do not want. You may choose to include a Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) order if you do not want medical professionals to perform life-saving treatment should your heart stops beating, or you stop breathing.
You may also set up General Powers of Attorney and Limited Powers of Attorney. General POA tend to have fewer limitations and can handle a wide variety of tasks on your behalf, including both Medical and Financial POA matters. In contrast, Limited POA are required to fulfill only specific tasks and have more limitations.
When you give an individual Financial Power of Attorney, you are allowing them to make legal decisions regarding your finances, including life insurance payments, social security benefits, changes to club memberships, or other such financial matters. However, that does not give them power over any trusts you have set up. Legally speaking, trusts are not a part of your financial assets. They are usually developed specifically to separate money or property from your owned assets. As such, your agent has limited ability in managing your trust. He or she can only allow transfers from your assets into a trust or manage funds received by a trust.
However, your agent can set up a trust in your name, if you outline this in the terms of the Power of Attorney. This can be done to ensure specific family members or loved ones receive money or property you planned on giving them or to donate to a charity on your behalf.
If you set up a trust, you should also outline a Power of Attorney. The Power of Attorney can manage all your assets outside of the trust and ensure it receives the proper amount of funding. You will want to pick an agent who will work well with the trustee (the individual managing the trust) to make sure all assets are managed properly.
You may be concerned about assigning control of your financial assets or medical decisions to another individual, but Powers of Attorney do come with certain limitations. As mentioned above, your agent cannot manage a trust you have already set up. In addition, an individual with Powers of Attorney cannot:
- Change your Will
- Manage any Trusts set up before the POA was put in place
- Use your assets for personal or professional benefits
- Manage your assets after you die, unless otherwise stated
- Disobey any of the rules outlined in the Power of Attorney
Deciding what type of POA you would like to set up and the limitations you would like in place can be a complicated matter, especially if you have a large family. Every member may want a say in your estate or medical treatment. Designating an agent or multiple agents to make those decisions for you can be a huge step forward, especially with the help of a law firm the specializes in estate planning at your side.
The Orange County estate planners at Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie have worked with numerous clients to set up the legal documents they need to manage their estates. We can walk you through the process for preparing a Power of Attorney, outline the contract, put together any limitations or requested tasks per your desires, and ensure other aspects of your estate are well taken care of. If you are an Orange County resident looking to set up a Power of Attorney, please call us at (949) 752-7474.
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