Powers of attorney come in a wide variety, but they share one thing in common: they are essentially “blank checks.” They grant authority without explaining how that authority is to be exercised. Like all estate planning tools, powers of attorney have a specific function, and they are part of almost every comprehensive estate plan. On the other hand, their benefits and their pitfalls must be understood.
The basic reason to have a power of attorney is that sometimes it can be awfully convenient to have someone who can take legal action on your behalf. For example, if you were incapacitated, it would be nice to have a way for someone to access your bank accounts on your behalf. Your family’s only other alternative might be to go through a court process to have someone appointed as your conservator. As you are instinctively aware, it almost always a good idea to avoid going to court. That’s where powers of attorney can be a godsend.
The “dark side” of powers of attorney is that if your agent turns out to be less than angelic, that person can clean out your bank accounts and be half way to Brazil before anyone else is aware of it. So when it comes to powers of attorney, proceed with caution.
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