What’s the Importance of Having a Financial Power of Attorney?

WMUR’s recent article, “Why you need a financial durable power of attorney” explains that a power of attorney is a legal document that allows another individual (your agent) or financial institution to conduct financial transactions for you, if you’re unable to do so. Without a POA, your family will likely need to petition the court make these decisions on your behalf.

Whether you’re young, elderly, single or married, it’s a good idea for everyone to have a power of attorney. For married couples, while your spouse can usually take care of the basic finances, many financial transactions require both spouses’ signatures. For those assets in your name only, your spouse will have no access.

One type of financial power of attorney is a durable power of attorney, which becomes effective upon signing and stays in effect through any incapacity and until your death—unless you revoke it. This POA typically lets the agent perform a wide range of financial transactions on your behalf. If you don’t designate that your power is “durable,” it may automatically end, if you become incapacitated.

Another type of power of attorney is a “springing” power of attorney, and it usually doesn’t become effective unless specific conditions are met. Typically, a physician must certify that you’ve become incapacitated. This POA lets you to control your affairs, unless and until you can’t do so.

Work with an experienced estate planning attorney to draft the power of attorney. This document is usually created as part of your overall estate planning. Note that it’s not the same as a medical power of attorney. That document gives your agent authority for medical, not financial decisions. To be fully effective, these POAs must comply with state laws, which can vary from state to state.

The typical powers granted to your attorney-in-fact or agent, are to use your assets to pay your normal expenses, collect Social Security, invest your money, handle banking transactions, gain access to your safe deposit box, manage property and watch over your retirement accounts. Aside from granting broad powers, the POA must be specific about certain rights granted to the agent. For example, the grantor gives an agent the right to make gifts on behalf of the grantor or the right to complete and file your tax returns.

Your attorney may also hold the POA for you pending release, if you should become incapacitated.  It is important to make certain to periodically review your documents and your estate plan, so that it reflects your current situation and goals.

Reference: WMUR (May 23, 2019) “Why you need a financial durable power of attorney”

Graduation Over? Time to Consider Legal Documents

It is wonderful to bring up the children, make sure they are educated and see that 18th birthday come along. However, it is important to recognize that many things change from a legal standpoint, according to grbj.com in “Give your graduate the gift of legal documents.”

Here are recommended steps to take so parents can still be involved in their children’s lives when they are needed:

Health care proxy/medical power of attorney. Even if you are the person paying for health insurance, you are not legally permitted to make decisions on their behalf. Have your child sign a proxy/POA form designating who has the primary authority to make health decisions, if he or she is unable to do so. This is especially important when parents are divorced: both parents need to have the proper forms. Your estate planning attorney will be able to prepare these for you.

Durable power of attorney. If your child has signed a durable POA, you will be able to handle their financial matters, especially if your child becomes incapacitated.

HIPAA authorization. Medical providers may not disclose a patient’s medical status, unless they have legal permission. Your child should sign a HIPAA authorization with each of their providers, giving the parent access to all their information. This is especially necessary for a child with health or mental issues.

FERPA waivers. This one takes many parents by surprise. Even if you are the one paying for tuition and all college expenses, the college will not provide academic records, including grades and tuition bills, due to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act. Contact the college and find out exactly what forms they need to be sure you have access to all of your children’s information, including any health and mental health treatment.

Wills and trusts. If a child has assets and no descendants, they need a will or revocable trust to protect the parent’s taxable estate and allow someone to manage these assets, if they die prematurely.

Medical records. Make sure the child has access to their medical records, including medications, allergies, immunizations, etc.

Insurance. See if the family’s medical, homeowner’s and auto insurance coverage extend to a child living away at school and in another state. If the child is renting a house or apartment, make sure they have renter’s insurance.

Proof of identity. Make sure the child has access to their passport, birth certificate or Social Security card so they can get an internship or a job.

Bank accounts and credit cards. If the family’s regular bank does not have a branch where the child is attending school, the parents should consider opening a basic checking account at a local branch. Both parents and child should be on the account.

Registration. It’s time to register to vote and sons will need to register with Selective Service.

An estate planning attorney can advise you on the proper documents needed for your family.

Reference: grb.com (June 7, 2019) “Give your graduate the gift of legal documents.”

Leaving a Legacy Is Not Just about Money

A legacy is not necessarily about money, says a survey that was conducted by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch Ave Wave. More than 3,000 adults (2,600 of them were 50 and older) were surveyed and focus groups were asked about end-of-life planning and leaving a legacy. The article, “How to leave a legacy no matter how much money you have” from The Voice, shared a number of the participant’s responses.

A total of 94% of those surveyed said that a life well-lived, is about “having friends and family that love me.” 75% said that a life well-lived is about having a positive impact on society. A mere 10% said that a life well-lived is about accumulating a lot of wealth.

People want to be remembered for how they lived, not what they did at work or how much money they saved. Nearly 70% said they most wanted to be remembered for the memories they shared with loved ones. And only nine percent said career success was something they wanted to be remembered for.

While everyone needs to have their affairs in order, especially people over age 55, only 55% of those surveyed reported having a will. Only 18% have what are considered the three key essentials for legacy planning: a will, a health care directive and a durable power of attorney.

The will addresses how property is to be distributed, names an executor of the estate and, if there are minor children, names who should be their guardian. The health care directive gives specific directions as to end-of-life preferences and designates someone to make health care decisions for you, if you can’t. A power of attorney designates someone to make financial decisions on your behalf when you can’t do so, because of illness or incapacity.

An estate plan is often only considered when a trigger event occurs, like a loved one dying without an estate plan. That is a wake-up call for the family, once they see how difficult it is when there is no estate plan.

Parents age 55 and older had interesting views on leaving inheritances and who should receive their estate. Only about a third of boomers surveyed and 44% of Gen Xers said that it’s a parent’s duty to leave some kind of inheritance to their children. A higher percentage of millennials surveyed—55%–said that this was a duty of parents to their children.

The biggest surprise of the survey: 65% of people 55 and older reported that they would prefer to give away some of their money, while they are still alive. A mere 8% wanted to give away all their assets, before they died. Only 27% wanted to give away all their money after they died.

Reference: The Voice (June 16, 2019) “How to leave a legacy no matter how much money you have”