A power of attorney document is a powerful estate planning tool in Massachusetts. This document allows you to select an agent to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself. Thinking about the possibility of becoming incapacitated is challenging, no matter your age or situation in life. However, taking the time to make your wishes known in writing will help you and your family tremendously in the future.
At Surprenant & Beneski, PC, we believe that every Massachusetts resident could benefit from taking the time to create a power of attorney. The value of selecting the right person to act as your agent is immeasurable. With this important estate planning document in place, you can ensure that an individual you trust will handle your legal and financial concerns effectively.
What is a Massachusetts power of attorney?
A power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to assign a friend or family member to act as your attorney-in-fact or agent. It is important that you sign the document while you are in good mental and physical health. Creating the document prepares you and your family for a future that could include mental incompetence or failing health.
The agent you select will have the legal authority to make financial and business decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. Typically, the documents allow agents to make decisions regarding the following matters:
- Hiring or firing professionals, such as lawyers, accountants, and health care managers
- Applying for government benefits
- Estate planning decisions
- Making decisions regarding tax matters
- Managing retirement benefits
- Managing stocks, bonds, banking, insurance, and real estate decisions
Ordinary Powers of Attorney in Massachusetts
A general or ordinary power of attorney allows you to appoint an agent to act on your behalf in all matters. Typically, a general power of attorney specifies an end date or an event, after which the general power of attorney will become ineffective. Massachusetts residents often use an ordinary power of attorney to allow an agent to sign closing real estate documents or other legal documents on their behalf.
However, this type of power or attorney becomes ineffective when the creator becomes incapacitated. Massachusetts residents who only have a this type of document should consider creating a durable power of attorney to protect themselves should they become incapacitated. Married couples also benefit from creating these types of documents. Legal complications can arise when one spouse becomes incapacitated, and preparing this document can make the process easier for both spouses.
Durable Powers of Attorney in Massachusetts
A durable power of attorney allows the agent to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated or disabled. A general power of attorney becomes a durable power of attorney when it includes language such as “this power of attorney will become effective upon the disability or incapacity of the principal.” The legal authority of the agent to make decisions on your behalf springs into effect when you become incapacitated.
What happens if you become incapacitated and you have prepared any document? In many cases, a lengthy court proceeding could take place. Without a designated agent, a court would need to appoint a conservator and then give the conservator authorization to engage in financial transactions on your behalf. The appointment of a conservator will take time when time may be of the essence. Additionally, the court may appoint a conservator that you do not trust, someone you would never have chosen to make critical decisions on your behalf.
Selecting an Attorney-in-Fact
The attorney-in-fact, also called the agent, does not need to be an attorney or have any legal or financial training. When selecting an agent, it is crucial to choose a person that you trust. The decisions that your agent might make on your behalf could significantly affect your financial future, including your credit score, housing, or employment prospects. Selecting an individual who can cope with the stress of making important decisions on your behalf is also essential.
Limiting a Power of Attorney
Our lawyers help our clients tailor their documents to meet their individual needs and goals. Limiting the decision-making ability of an agent can help you protect yourself.
You may be unsure as to which provisions to include in the documents. At Surprenant & Beneski, PC, our attorneys can help you determine the scope and provisions of your power of attorney document. We work hard to ensure that the documents within our clients’ estate plans match up with their goals and unique life circumstances.
Revoking a Power of Attorney
Sometimes it becomes necessary to revoke a power of attorney. To revoke the document, you must do so in writing and gather and destroy any copies of the original document. You must also send notifications to any people or businesses who have received a copy of the document and tell them that you’ve revoked a power of attorney.
Our Southern Massachusettes Estate Planning Attorney Can Help!
At Surprenant & Beneski, PC, we offer our clients three convenient office locations throughout Southeastern Massachusetts. With offices in New Bedford, Easton, and Hyannis, we make it easy for our clients throughout Southeastern Massachusetts to access quality legal representation. Our law firm offers our clients focused, skillful legal representation. Our founding attorneys are two of only 24 attorneys in Massachusetts that are Certified Elder Law attorneys.
We understand that making decisions that involve incapacitation can be emotionally challenging. Our founding attorney began to focus on elder law after his mother received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Contact our law firm today to schedule an initial consultation and learn how we can help you prepare for the future by creating a power of attorney.