Most people, at some point during their life, execute a power of attorney. Unfortunately, people often do so without a thorough understanding of what they are signing nor of the power conferred on the Agent named in the power of attorney. If you are considering executing a power of attorney you should always have your Illinois estate planning attorney review the document prior to signing it; however, at a bare minimum you should consider the following mistakes to avoid in a power of attorney before executing one.
Using a generic form. Using generic, “fill-in-the-blank” legal forms found on the internet or at a local stationary store is never a good idea. The forms can be out of date, include incorrect information, and are often invalidated in court.
Appointing an Agent you don’t know. Never give power of attorney to someone you don’t know. Sometimes, there is a legitimate reason for doing so in order to effectuate the closing on a house or other similar reasons; however, always check with your estate planning attorney first.
Giving the Agent more power than is necessary. Never use a generic power of attorney when a limited, or special, power of attorney is sufficient.
Not understanding what “durable” means. When used in a power of attorney, the word “durable” means that the POA will survive the incapacity of the Principal. Often, this is desirable when executing a POA but make sure you want a durable POA before signing one.
Not being specific enough. Unless you are granting the Agent a general, unlimited power of attorney you must be very specific in the POA document with regard to the power you are granting the Agent. Using the correct language ensures that the Agent will be able to use the POA for the purpose intended AND that the Agent will not be able to use the POA for anything you did not intend.
Not including successor Agent. If you are using a power of attorney as an incapacity planning tool, or even for a specific limited purpose while you are unavailable, make sure to appoint a successor Agent. Anything could happen to your Agent, making the POA worthless if a successor Agent was not named.
If you have additional questions or concerns about creating or executing a power of attorney, or your Illinois estate plan in general, contact the experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.
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