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This website includes general information about legal issues, issues affecting seniors and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal issues and/or problems.

Rhode Island Elder Law Attorney - Power of Attorney

Elder Law Attorney for Rhode Island, Eastern Connecticut and Southeastern Massachusetts

What is a Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a very important estate planning tool, but in fact there are several different kinds of powers of attorney that can be used for different purposes. Before executing this crucial document, it is important to understand what your options are.

A power of attorney allows a person you appoint -- your "attorney-in-fact" or agent -- to act in your place for financial or other purposes when and if you ever become incapacitated or if you can't act on your own behalf. 

Reasons to Consider a Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney can be very helpful to you and your family.  If you were unable to handle your own affairs as a result of illness, accident, or even absence, the Power of Attorney gives your agent the power to handle your affairs as you would handle them yourself.  You might not be able to execute a Power of Attorney at a time when you are disabled due to an accident.

There are a lot of scenarios where it’s convenient for seniors to have a power of attorney and others where it’s crucial.  Some examples include:

  1. If paying bills and staying on top of other financial obligations becomes difficult and they want to seek help from a family member or daily money manager.

  2. If they have an upcoming surgery and want to know someone is empowered to be in charge during the surgery and while the person is in recovery or rehabilitation.

  3. If they want to make sure all financial and health care decisions and responsibilities will be covered in case of an accident or if they become incapacitated.

  4. If they’re traveling in retirement and need someone to take care of their responsibilities back home.

  5. If they’ve received an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis and want to make sure their loved ones can take over making financial, health and legal decisions for them when they can no longer take care of thee things themselves.

 

There are a number of reasons that a senior may benefit from someone else having the legal status to help make important decisions and manage their responsibilities, if this is the case, then setting up a power of attorney is appropriate.

Types of Power of Attorney

  • Durable Power of Attorney - A durable power of attorney can be general or limited in scope, but it remains in effect after you become incapacitated. Without a durable power of attorney, if you become incapacitated, no one can represent you unless a court appoints a conservator or guardian. A durable power of attorney will remain in effect until your death unless you rescind it while you are not incapacitated.

  • Healthcare Power of Attorney - A Health Care Proxy or Power of Attorney (also called a "Living Will") does not confer any financial authority but rather it authorizes one person (Agent) to make medical decisions for another. It is used when the person who grants the power is unable to communicate their wishes when disease or physical injury make the expression of one’s wishes impossible. Connelly Law can develop a Health Care Proxy with as little or as much medical decision making latitude/authority as you wish. We will make your Health Care Proxy highly specific as to what type of decisions can be made and how much discretion you want your nominated Agent to have. It can be limited to only routine medical decisions such as authorizing a flu shot or shingles vaccination or it can contain directives on end-of-life decisions including “do not resuscitate or intubate/comfort measures only” orders.

  • Springing Power of Attorney- Like a durable power of attorney, a springing power of attorney can allow your attorney-in-fact to act for you if you become incapacitated, but it does not become effective until you are incapacitated. If you are using a springing power of attorney, it is very important that the standard for determining incapacity and triggering the power of attorney be clearly laid out in the document itself.

  • Financial Power of Attorney - A financial power of attorney grants someone the legal authority to handle financial matters on the principal’s behalf. That could include simple tasks like depositing social security checks or paying the person’s bills, or it could broadly give them control over managing their investments, maintaining or selling their assets and accessing their bank accounts.  Most seniors will want to provide broad powers to their agent when setting up a financial power of attorney so they can be sure that all of their financial assets and responsibilities will be taken care of if or when they lose the ability to manage them well themselves.

Regardless of what type of power of attorney you use, it is important to think carefully about who will be your attorney-in-fact. Your attorney-in-fact will have a lot of control over your finances, and it is crucial that you trust him or her completely. When naming a fiduciary, it is important to be able to trust the individual, which is why people often name family members as fiduciaries. However, problems can arise when a parent with two or more children names one child as a fiduciary.  An alternative is to hire a professional fiduciary. A professional fiduciary can be a bank with trust powers, a certified public accountant, or an estate planning attorney. 

 

Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. is a trusted professional fiduciary. 

Rhode Island, Southeastern Massachusetts and Eastern Connecticut Elder Law Attorney

"Once your loved ones have decided who they want their agent to be and what powers they want to grant them, the hard part is done. Although you can find power of attorney documents online that are valid, it’s better to work directly with an attorney. Having a relationship with an elder law attorney allows you to make sure the document is up to date and reflects the specific desires of your loved one. The document must be signed with witnesses present and notarized.  We can guide you through the process."

                                                                                                                ---- RJ Connelly III

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