Question of the Day on ElderCareMatters.com: "I need to get a power of attorney and I was wondering if it would be okay to just use one from the internet instead of going to an attorney?"

Answer:  A power of attorney is one of the most important documents that you can execute. It allows you to appoint an agent to manage your financial affairs if you become unable to do so. Without a power of attorney, if you become incapacitated your family will have to go to court to have a judge determine who will manage your financial affairs.  That can be both costly and time consuming and is easily avoided by having a comprehensive power of attorney. 

Many people use the internet to obtain a power of attorney in order to avoid going to an attorney. These internet forms seem simple to complete and are not expensive.  The biggest problem though is that these forms are not tailored to your specific family’s needs and are often missing many important powers that your agent should have. 

The most important function of a power of attorney is that it sets out the specific powers that your agent will have if you become unable to make financial decisions on your own. These powers generally include buying or selling property, managing your bank accounts, paying bills, investing money, cashing checks, and collecting debts. 

In many states your agent only has the powers that are specifically listed in the power of attorney.  This means that a broad statement that your agent can do anything you can do is simply not enough.  Your power of attorney must list out each power you want your agent to have.  

The powers stated in your power of attorney can vary greatly depending on your wishes and your family’s situation.  Some powers are typically not included on an online power of attorney, and therefore it is important to consult an attorney rather than filling out a premade form. For example, the power to transfer money to your children, or to create and fund an irrevocable trust, is generally not included in an online power of attorney, but these can be extremely important powers for your agent to have if you need to do Medicaid or Veterans benefits planning in the future.   

By having a power of attorney, your family can avoid the court process and feel secure about your future. While it is tempting to avoid legal fees by completing an online premade form, I recommend that you seek the advice of an experienced attorney. With your attorney’s help, you can rest assured that your wishes will be carried out should you become unable to manage your finances in the future.

To locate competent elder law attorneys who are located near You and can help you with this type of elder care matter, go to: www.ElderCareMatters.com – A FREE online source to find elder care experts plus information & answers about a wide range of elder care matters.

Angela N. Manz, Attorney at Law
The Law Firm of Angela N. Manz
Virginia Beach, VA  23452
757-271-6275
Member of the ElderCare Matters Alliance, Virginia chapter

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