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A power of attorney is a key tool in the estate planning arsenal

Every California resident would be best served by having a durable power of attorney signed and ready to implement if he or she becomes incapacitated and unable to handle his or her financial affairs. The person appointed in the instrument is called the agent, and that person is endowed with a reservoir of authority allowing him or her to do specified things on the principal's behalf. This is a key protective measure that is nearly always made a part of the individual's estate planning framework.

Although a power of attorney can theoretically be prepared by taking a form off the internet, this practice is fraught with potentially bad consequences. The POA is just one essential item in a group of interrelated items prepared by the estate planning attorney after consultation with the client. The attorney acts only after making a thorough evaluation of all the existing factors. In addition, most states have specific mandatory rules of content and construction to validate the document for certain important uses within the state.

One could spend valuable time searching the web for the right provisions to fit one's particular circumstances and for the specified wording and format required by the state's law. Only an experienced professional can accurately determine which provisions are necessary to fit the client's particular needs and the legal impact of the precise wording. In addition, the POA must be acceptable to one's financial institutions. If the POA is rejected after one has become disabled, it can be too late for the incompetent to sign new papers.

Therefore, the principal will be best protected by introducing the agent to the right person at each institution where an account exists. If some institutions have extremely difficult requirements for the POA, it may be necessary to switch and consolidate one's accounts at an institution that understands how to facilitate such important estate planning protections. With the assistance of an attorney, who is experienced in working with the estate planning laws of California, the POA will be properly prepared, the agent will know what to do if the situation arises, and the institutions will have proof on record helping them to quickly approve the POA.

Source: forbes.com, "7 Big Estate Planning Mistakes", Bob Carlson, Feb. 23, 2018

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