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How a durable power of attorney fits into estate planning

Many people here in California believe that when they create an estate plan it will simply serve its intended purpose once they pass away. However, some need additional care at the end of their lives. They may even lack the ability to make their own financial decisions, which can have serious unintended consequences, such as an important bill not being paid. For that, experts recommend naming a durable power of attorney as part of estate planning.

A financial durable power of attorney is someone who will make and execute financial decisions on behalf of another person who is unable to do so, for cognitive or physical reasons. Sometimes the agent is temporary and relinquishes duties back to the estate owner once the ability to make choices is restored. An “immediate” durable power of attorney takes effect when the estate owner signs proper documentation. A “springing” durable power of attorney requires two letters from doctors who have examined the estate owner and determined that person unable to handle his or her own financial choices.

Experts advise care when naming a durable power of attorney. This is a person who will make someone’s financial choices and if he or she cannot be trusted to do so in accordance with an estate owner’s wishes, that may be the wrong person to choose. Even when the person is totally trustworthy, the estate owner needs to ensure that the person is aware of potential duties, how to handle them and where to find important documentation that may be required. Ideally, the person would immediately know what to do in the event that an estate owner needs his or her assistance.

Though naming a durable power of attorney is of vital importance, it is only one facet of estate planning. California families may want to consult an attorney to determine what provisions of an estate plan they may need. This may be the best way to ensure that one is prepared for any possibility life may have in store.

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