In evaluating the do’s and don’ts of estate planning, business succession, assistance with aging parents and general family matters, one commonly overlooked and extremely valuable tool is the General Durable Power of Attorney form. Most states have enacted and adopted statutory legislation that governs what may be included in a General Durable Power of Attorney. For example, the State of Indiana provides an exhaustive listing of what acts may be undertaken and these acts may include: selling property (real and personal), making investments and making healthcare decisions.
The General Durable Power of Attorney is often chosen as a way to plan for those times when you are incapacitated. Consequently, having a General Durable Power of Attorney with a specialized agent allows your affairs to be handled easily and inexpensively. Prior to when the General Durable Power of Attorney was created, the only way to handle the affairs of an incapacitated person was to appoint a guardian; a process that frequently involves complex and costly court proceedings, as well as the often humiliating determination that the person was wholly incapable and in need of protection. Additionally, the Court proceedings would be of public record; therefore, allowing the world to know of this unfortunate time in a loved one’s life.
The most important part of creating a General Durable Power of Attorney is choosing an agent. The agent is the person you select to carry out the duties you have outlined in the General Durable Power of Attorney. The agent should be someone you trust to carry out your wishes, someone who will not take advantage of you when you are incapacitated, and someone who is willing to serve as your agent. The agent is usually a family member or a friend; however, you may choose anyone.
Once you have signed a General Durable Power of Attorney, you should inform your physician, your family, your banker, your insurance agent and your financial/tax advisor. You should also have multiple copies in case of your subsequent incapacitation. It is best to store such a valuable document in a personal safe or a safe-deposit box at your local bank branch.
In addition to the above, it is extremely important to note that if you change your mind after creating the document you may amend, modify and/or revoke said General Durable Power of Attorney at any time.
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