What is a Power of Attorney and Why Do I Need One?

A Financial Power of Attorney names a trusted family member or friend to make financial decisions for you if you are no longer able to make those decisions for yourself. This document is needed because, without one, if you suddenly became incapacitated someone will have to be appointed by the Probate Court to make decisions for you if. A Guardianship allows the Court to appoint someone to make health care and placement decisions for you. A Conservatorship is for managing your assets. A Guardianship is different from a Conservatorship, although they can be filed jointly. Both of these require an action to be filed, and can easily cost thousands of dollars to have put in place. Even a spouse would have to go through this legal process if you were to become incapacitated and did not have a Power of Attorney.

We have had to handle Guardianships and Conservatorships several times for spouses and family members of people who suddenly and unexpectedly became incapacitated. They are almost always shocked they have to go through this process, and are surprised by how expensive it is. Unfortunately, the law requires that a Guardian ad Litem, who is another attorney, and a Visitor, who must be a registered nurse, social worker or attorney, be appointed as part of the action. The filing fees alone for these actions are several hundred dollars. There are also annual reporting requirements, Court fees, and ongoing Court supervision for as long as the disability lasts. The good news is, this entire expensive and time-consuming process can be completely avoided with a Financial Power of Attorney.

If you really care about your loved ones, take care of this ahead of time. Go see a local attorney and have them draft a good, valid power of attorney so that if something happens, you will know that you (and your family) are taken care of. This costs very little to set up, and will spare your loved ones from a lot of stress and paperwork in Court later.

One more note for those of you wondering if your current power of attorney is sufficient. The laws regarding powers of attorney have changed several times over the years, including some major changes that came into effect in January of 2013. If you haven't had your power of attorney updated since then, now is a great time to have someone take a look at it for you. If you would like to speak with one of our attorneys, we typically do our initial consultations free of charge, and are happy to review documents to ensure they still meet all of the law's requirements.

If you are interested in having a power of attorney set up, or reviewed give us a call or fill out the easy contact form on our website. Also be sure to request a copy of our new book, Five Reasons a Simple Will Might Not Be Enough, which not only covers the basics of estate planning in South Carolina, but also includes information on Financial and Health Care Powers of Attorney.

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