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Why Signing a Power of Attorney in Advance is Important

One of the most difficult aspects of a protracted serious injury or illness — aside from the affliction itself — is that your life goes on throughout your treatment and recovery. Bills must be paid, investments must be managed and a whole host of daily tasks you once took for granted are now a significant complication. This is especially problematic for those who suffered a permanent incapacity as well as for their families.

Executing a power of attorney in advance allows you to delegate the authority to handle your affairs to a trusted friend or loved one. If drafted properly, this document gives him or her the authority to deal with banks and financial managers, file taxes, pay bills and otherwise manage your affairs on your behalf.

If the unthinkable should happen and you have not executed such a document, your family may be forced to establish a guardianship in order to manage your affairs. This requires a court proceeding and can be costly and time-consuming:

  • Establishing a guardianship often requires a judicial determination of incapacity — that the proposed ward lacks the mental capacity to understand and manage his or her affairs.
  • After a person is determined incompetent, the family member or friend must ask the court for an appointment as guardian. This can sometimes become contested ground when the family cannot agree upon who should serve.
  • Once appointed, the guardian is under court supervision and must file annual reports as well as ask for court permission to do certain things. This is generally not required under a power of attorney.
  • While an incapacitated person can consent to a guardianship if he or she has mental capacity but is only physically incapable of managing his or her affairs, the guardian is still subject to court supervision.

Guardianships are, unfortunately, sometimes necessary. An experienced Florida incapacity planning attorney can help you through the process of establishing a guardianship for your disabled loved one. However, with preplanning, a power of attorney can usually accomplish the same objectives with much less expense and effort.

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