Should You Assign Durable Power of Attorney?

There are several different ways in which you can grant someone else power of attorney, and they all have different rules and restrictions. The most liberal power of attorney you can grant is called durable power of attorney, which means that the person named has control over your legal and financial matters until you can revoke it. Of course, if you are ever incapacitated and can no longer make your own decisions, the power of attorney is never revoked. Before you assign durable power of attorney, it is important to consider several factors:

Do you trust the person to whom you are assigning power?

I assume that you wouldn't even be considering giving someone power of attorney unless you trusted them, but limited power is far different from durable power. Since the assignment stays until you revoke it, that person has complete control over your financial and legal matters, which is considerable when you think of everything that could possibly happen to you. Make sure that the person is not only trustworthy, but also capable of making those decisions as you would prefer.

Why are you considering this option?

The reason behind wanting to assign durable power of attorney should definitely play into your decision-making process. For example, if you are concerned that you might be incapacitated by illness or injury, you might consider instead assigning a springing power of attorney, which kicks in only when a designated event occurs. This allows you to consider making your own decisions until and unless that happens.

Is the person to whom you are assigning power comfortable with the arrangement?

You not only have to consider your own feelings when you assign durable power of attorney, but also the feelings of the person you are naming on the form. This is an incredible responsibility you are bestowing on someone else, so make sure you talk it over at length before filling out the form and signing it. You can also ask them how they will handle your legal and financial decision once the power kicks in.

Are you married?

If you are currently married, your spouse must give permission to assign durable power of attorney - or any power at all - if the type of power you assign affects him or her in any way. For example, financial matters are a consideration of both husband and wife, so you'll need to have both signatures on the form, signed in front of a notary public. Make sure you talk about this possibility with your spouse to ensure you are on the same page.

How will the other person benefit from this assignment?

Unfortunately, we live in a greedy, litigious society where even the most trustworthy of individuals can have ulterior motives. Consider how that person will be affected or will benefit when you assign durable power of attorney. What will this responsibility do to your relationship? And what will happen if the power is abused?

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