Can They Really Hold My Money? (Part II)

Back in the day, a Power of Attorney (POA) might say something like, “I (Dad) give Junior the power to do anything that I could do if I was able to do it myself.” Not anymore. Your POA has to be very specific. That is why our POAs for property issues are 20+ pages and our separate POA for health care issues (yes, you need both) are around 8 pages.

In this new enlightened time of “pickiness” what can we do to protect ourselves? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. This will seem sort of obvious, but you need to have a good property power of attorney. Even though the banks are getting pickier it is much better to have a power of attorney them not to have one. Even though financial institutions are looking more closely at the powers in your POA, it is definitely better to have one than not. Most of the time, we can work throughout the issues.
  2. You also need to have a separate health care power of attorney for health care issues. If you are sick or incapacitated and are not able to make health care decisions for yourself, who is so authorized? Good question!  You need to have your wishes in writing.
  3. Technically, a property or financial power of attorney can be bundled together with a health care power of attorney. The reason we draft 2 separate documents is because there are different laws governing each.  Also, they are presented to different folks for different purposes. The property POA is usually presented to banks and financial institutions, while the health care POA is usually presented to nursing homes, medical providers and hospitals.
  4. If you have a power of attorney that was drafted 20 years ago, it is probably not nearly specific enough to do what you need it to do. It is probably legally acceptable (if prepared by a lawyer), but it may not be specific enough to cover all issues that you need to have addressed in today’s complex world. You need to have your POA checked out immediately.
  5. If you find yourself in a position of having to deal with the bank who will not accept your power of attorney, contact your attorney immediately – they may be able to intervene for you and get it accepted. If not, you may have to go through a guardianship proceeding, which we will cover in a future newsletter.

It is crucial to have all necessary legal documents in place before a person loses mental capacity. If you have a spouse, parent or grandparent whose health is declining, it would be wise to get them in front of an Elder Law Attorney as soon as possible. At this meeting, it is also wise to discuss what actions, if any, can be taken to protect family assets from depletion due to a long term care stay. Act while you can. When capacity is gone, it is often too late to plan.

The information provided on this blog is intended as general information only for a broad audience. It is not intended as legal advice and should not be acted upon as such. If any reader has questions or concerns about any matter mentioned herein, he/she should contact an Elder Law Attorney or other appropriate professional. If any reader has questions or suggestions about a future topic area that he/she would like to see discussed, please contact the author at doug@arkelderlaw.com.