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Why is a durable power of attorney so useful during retirement?

On Behalf of | Nov 28, 2023 | Estate Planning

Discussions about powers of attorney often focus on the function of the document. Many people put together financial or medical powers of attorney that designate an agent to assume certain types of authority in the event of an emergency. They name someone they trust to serve as their attorney-in-fact when they cannot manage their finances or communicate their medical preferences to professionals.

Fewer people putting together a thorough estate plan in Pennsylvania consider the use of a durable power of attorney. Not everyone realizes that a durable power of attorney is particularly valuable as they continue to age.

What is the purpose of a durable power of attorney as opposed to non-durable documents?

Durable documents retain authority for longer

As a general rule, powers of attorney lose their authority when the principal dies. Their testamentary documents take over at that point. However, people are sometimes incapacitated and incapable of caring for themselves for extended lengths of time. The courts could even intervene and declare that someone has lost their testamentary capacity.

Such determinations often occur when an outside party seeks guardianship or conservatorship over an aging adult. Basic powers of attorney may lose their authority when someone becomes permanently incapacitated. The principal is as vulnerable in that situation as someone who never bothered to draft powers of attorney.

However, durable powers of attorney retain their authority even after someone’s permanent incapacitation. The person they named in their documents can continue to manage their finances and medical needs. Effectively, properly drafted durable powers of attorney can allow someone to name an individual they trust to handle all of their personal matters if they become permanently incapacitated.

Instead of being subject to the whims of whoever requests legal authority from the courts, an adult preparing for retirement can choose the individual who will manage their finances or medical matters when they become incapable of doing so. Durable powers of attorney, therefore, serve to protect people from involuntary guardianship and the loss of control over their circumstances.

Ultimately, thinking about long-term needs and possible future challenges may help people put together more effective estate plans in Pennsylvania with the assistance of a skilled legal professional.