Estate planning is about more than simply deciding who will receive your assets after you pass away. Power of attorney documents are included in your estate plan to ensure that someone you trust can step in to make important decisions on your behalf if you become ill, injured, or otherwise unable to speak for yourself.
Types of Power of Attorney in an Estate Plan
The person who is granted power of attorney is often referred to as your agent. In Georgia, there are two types of power of attorney.
- Power of attorney for finances. This can give someone the authority to pay bills, collect funds, manage investments, file taxes, and handle other financial-related matters on your behalf. The specific powers you wish to have the person possess must be spelled out in the power of attorney document. If it is not stated that your agent can handle a particular task, they do not have the authority to do so.
- Power of attorney for healthcare. This gives someone the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf. They will make decisions using the guidelines you’ve set out in your advance healthcare directive or living will.
In many cases, a person chooses the same individual to have both financial and healthcare power of attorney. For example, it is common for spouses to choose each other to serve in this role. However, you are free to choose two different individuals if you wish to do so.
Since it’s impossible to predict the circumstances under which a person might need to serve as your agent, you should name an alternate person in your power of attorney document who can step in if your first choice is unable or unwilling to act as your agent when the need arises.
Creating and Revoking Power of Attorney
A person can create a power of attorney at any time, as long as they are considered legally competent. To be valid, a power of attorney must be:
- In writing
- Signed by the principal (the person granting power of attorney to the agent)
- Attested and subscribed by two or more competent adult witnesses
Getting the document notarized is not required. However, many people decide to take this step as an additional security measure.
If you later decide that you wish to revoke the power of attorney, you should shred the document or sign a new document that ends the legal authority of the agent. It is also recommended that you notify your financial institutions and healthcare providers of your decision.
You have the authority to cancel a power of attorney at any time as long as you remain legally competent.
Difference Between a Power of Attorney and a Trustee
Many people who are creating an estate plan for the first time find themselves wondering about the difference between a power of attorney and a trustee. While a power of attorney refers to the ability to makes decisions in specific areas such as finances or healthcare, a trustee is someone who manages assets placed in a trust.
In a revocable living trust, the most common type of trust used in estate planning, the person who created the trust generally serves as the trustee until they pass away or become incapacitated. Then, the individual named as a successor trustee takes over.
Depending on your preferences, it is possible that the individual named successor trustee could also hold a power of attorney for finances and/or healthcare.
How Can Our Georgia Estate Planning Attorney Help You Prepare for the Future?
The Ward Law Firm is committed to helping clients create estate plans that protect their assets and make sure their wishes will be known if they become unable to speak for themselves due to illness or injury. Please use our online contact form to request a consultation with experienced estate planning attorney David J. Ward. We are proud to serve clients in Gwinnett County and throughout the state of Georgia.