By Matt Hopkins
Special to The Sun
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly series of columns written by attorneys at Lester, Loving & Davies law firm in Edmond.
Q: What is a durable power of attorney?
A: A couple of weeks ago, we discussed coming to grips with the reality that one day the world will not include us. Those who now share the planet with us will be left to find out whether the globe really does spin without us. I hope, for their sake, that it does. And if it does, I sincerely hope I have adequately prepared my household for my permanent absence.
That’s the question we started with. How do we provide for those who count on us after our inevitable demise? I pointed out in the initial article that we should each have, at a minimum, a simple will. I also indicated that a will is, for most of us, just the start of an appropriate estate plan, and promised to discuss other elements in future articles.
And now it’s the future. So, here you go. Everyone should have a will. Everyone should consider a durable power of attorney. Everyone should sign an advanced health care directive. We know that a will governs who gets your stuff, who administers your estate and who provides for children. So what do the other documents do? We’ll start with powers of attorney this week, and discuss health care directives sometime in the future.
A durable power of attorney authorizes another person — called an “attorney-in-fact” to take care of your business while you are still living. There are many varieties of powers of attorney. Some, called “springing” powers of attorney, become effective only after a certain event — such as your disability — occurs. Others, are effective when executed. They all authorize someone you trust to handle your business as if they stood in your shoes. They can be limited to certain types of business or occasions, or can be all-inclusive.
Powers of attorney are important so that someone can take care of your business when you are no longer able. Grown children often use powers of attorney to deal with their parents’ business with the Social Security Administration, healthcare providers, insurance companies and banks.
A power of attorney is effective only during the life of the principal. Action necessary after death requires another instrument. The person you name as your attorney-in-fact owes you a fiduciary duty to use her power only to your benefit. Most people appoint their spouse, and then their children, but any person you trust will do.
MATT HOPKINS is an attorney for Lester, Loving & Davies P.C. More information is available at lldlaw.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.