Every person over the age of eighteen should consider having a financial power of attorney. A “financial” power of attorney allows you to choose another individual, your “agent”, whom you trust, to handle your finances for you. If you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated in the future, your agent can help you pay your bills, sell your real estate to enable you to downsize, change your investments depending on changes in the market, or arrange for required minimum distributions from your retirement plans. If you need to move to an assisted living facility or nursing home, your agent can assist you in doing so. Your agent also can assist you in seeking any financial assistance you may need to pay for such care, in taking actions to protect your assets for your spouse or other loved ones before applying for such assistance, and in completing submitting any applications for assistance.
Without a financial power of attorney in place, your loved ones may need to petition the Probate Court to be appointed as your conservator in order to assist you. The process of petitioning to be appointed a conservator is a time consuming and expensive process. The petition becomes a public record, involves the intervention of a court-appointed visitor, and requires a court hearing. Changes in the law that go into effect this summer will increase the documentation needed to become appointed, thereby further increasing the time and expense involved in the petition. While the petition is pending, your needs are not being met.
Obtaining a financial power of attorney is simple and inexpensive. Consider putting one in place to enable someone, whom you trust, to help you handle your financial affairs as life’s challenges present themselves.
This article is not legal advice but should be considered as general guidance in the area of estate planning. Darcie P.L. Beaudin, Jill A. Checkoway, and Bryan M. Dench are Trust & Estate Planning attorneys; others at the firm handle business and other matters. You can contact us at 207.784.3200. Skelton Taintor & Abbott is a full service law firm providing legal services to individuals, companies, and municipalities throughout Maine. It has been in operation since its founding in 1853.