Thursday, August 8, 2013

Keeping Powers of Attorney Fresh

     In the past year, we have heard from a number of clients letting us know that banks and other financial institutions are reluctant to accept Durable Powers of Attorney dated more than two years ago. The same is also true of doctors and hospitals when it comes to accepting Patient Advocate Designations. All of these institutions share this reluctance because when a significant amount of time passes between the execution and use of the document , there is a concern that the person may have executed a new document in the intervening time, naming a different person to act on their behalf. For this reason, we encourage our clients to regularly “refresh” their Patient Advocate Designations and Durable Powers of Attorney.
     Another benefit of regularly refreshing these documents is the ability to review the choices clients have made in naming people to make decisions on their behalf.  It is a good idea make sure those people named are still living, able to assist the client, and still whom the client wants to make decisions on their behalf. This review is important because Patient Advocate Designations and Powers of Attorney are documents clients generally do not think about after signing, until something goes wrong and the client needs to make use of the documents. This "sign and put in a drawer" philosophy frequently leads to complacency, and clients are surprised to discover, years later, that their documents contain people whom they have not spoken to in years or who would no longer be suitable to assist the client should they be incapacitated.
     A final benefit of regularly refreshing Powers of Attorney and Patient Advocate Designations is the ability to have documents that comply with the most recent statutory language and best practices for creating such documents. Over the last ten years the specific powers enumerated in a comprehensive Durable Power Of Attorney have increased substantially, ensuring that the person named to act has the authority to deal with a wide variety of situations and institutions that all require specific permission prior to releasing any information to a third party.
     The process of refreshing these documents does not need to be expensive nor time-consuming. An experienced attorney, especially one the client has worked with previously, should be able to review the documents with the client over the phone and have updated documents prepared to sign in a matter of days. It is important to work with an experienced professional rather than using a fill in the blank form or other do-it-yourself method because these documents confer substantial power to another person to act on your behalf. 

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