Almost everyone needs a power of attorney at some point in their life. If you are at that point you may be tempted to take the seemingly easy route by purchasing your power of attorney from Staples or Office Depot and just filling in the blanks. While this may appear to be the quick and easy way of creating your power of attorney, or POA, it may cost you far more in the long run.
In today’s electronic age a wide variety of legal forms can be purchased at Staples or Office Depot as well as downloaded from the internet. Going the “do-it-yourself” (DIY) route is often cost-effective in other areas of your life; however, when it comes to creating legal forms – particularly something as important and potentially powerful as a power of attorney – the DIY route can be disastrous.
A power of attorney gives another person (your “Agent”) the authority to act on your behalf in legal matters. If you execute a general POA your Agent has the authority to do things such as withdraw funds from financial accounts and even enter into contracts in your name. Is this the kind of power you want to depend on a generic DIY form to grant? The list of problems that can result when using a DIY power of attorney form are virtually endless; however, some of the most common problems include:
- Granting too little power – the absence of a word, phrase, or date that is not included in a generic form could result in granting too little (or no) power to your Agent, effectively making the POA worthless.
- Granting too much power – unless you plan to give you Agent unbridled power you must limit the authority granted in your POA, something that a generic POA may not accomplish properly.
- Failing to make the POA durable – if you want your POA to work if you become incapacitated it must be a “durable” POA which is accomplished by adding specific language.
- Failing to plan for contingencies – legal documents should always plan for the “what ifs” in life. DIY forms, however, rarely do this. For example, what is something happens to your Agent? Should you appoint a successor Agent in your POA?
The bottom line is that there is no substitute for experienced legal advice and guidance. The money you save by using a DIY POA will not be a savings at all if the form is worthless or, even worse, the form causes expensive litigation down the road!
If you have additional questions or concerns about creating a power of attorney, contact the experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys at Nash, Nash, Bean & Ford, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.
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