Online Document Forms Don’t Always Do the Job

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February 22, 2022

Wendell knew he needed a financial power of attorney document in order to make sure he named someone to manage his finances and take care of his business if he was ever unable to do so on his own.

However, Wendell was busy and didn’t want to take the time or spend the money to meet with an estate-planning attorney to discuss a power of attorney.

He went online and printed off a basic power of attorney document, signed it and called it a day. Little did he know that his attempt to save some time and money would end up costing him many times more in the future.

His financial power of attorney document did name someone to make his financial decisions (his “Agent”).

It was also a “durable” financial power of attorney, which means it would remain effective even if he later become incapacitated. Wendell even made sure he initialed all of the powers listed in the power of attorney in order to give his Agent plenty of authority to help manage his affairs and maintain his business operation.

What he didn’t realize is that financial power of attorney forms found online typically do not contain sophisticated or unique provisions that may be necessary to truly give an Agent the power to properly manage a business or protect assets. The standard power of attorney form may not fully authorize an Agent to care for you or carry out your overall estate plan.

For example, Wendell is concerned about succession planning for his business as well as how to pay for his long-term care (e.g., nursing home) since most of his net worth is tied up in his business.

Sadly, his standard financial power of attorney lacks provisions that would allow his Agent to carry out his succession plan and possibly apply for medical assistance if needed.

What he didn’t realize is that financial power of attorney forms found online typically do not contain sophisticated or unique provisions that may be necessary to truly give an Agent the power to properly manage a business or protect assets. The standard power of attorney form may not fully authorize an Agent to care for you or carry out your overall estate plan.

Wendell’s power of attorney document does not authorize the creation of trusts to protect his business or other assets, enter into contracts for his care or authorize the Agent to make large gifts that may be advised to carry out his succession plan. All of those provisions are vital when trying to preserve and protect assets, such as Wendell’s business.

When Wendell eventually went into a nursing home, he had not yet completed his succession planning.

His Agent realized that he would need to work to transition the business to the children and engage in medical assistance planning to slow the drain on Wendell’s assets due to the monthly nursing home bill.

His Agent was surprised to find out, however, that Wendell’s online power of attorney was not up to the task. The Agent was unable to carry out many of the steps needed to transition the business and provide options for Wendell’s care.

Ultimately, the Agent had to find other legal avenues to help Wendell (e.g., guardianship), which resulted in additional legal fees that could have been avoided with an adequate financial power of attorney.

In addition, the delay in obtaining medical assistance for Wendell resulted in Wendell continuing to fully pay for several additional months of his nursing home care, which also could have been avoided with an adequate financial power of attorney.

It’s important to take the time Wendell didn’t and make sure you have an adequate financial power of attorney document as part of your well-crafted estate plan. Make sure your Agent will have all of the tools needed to help you when needed.

© 2022 The Business NewsNorthcentral, WI.  Reprinted with permission.

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