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The Power of a Power of Attorney

| Apr 4, 2013 | IRS |


If you are elderly, or your parents are elderly and you help them with their finances, you should consider getting a Power or Attorney (POA). A POA lets you name or appoint someone to handle important legal and financial issues for you, either now or in the future if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. A POA can also be used to manage or make decisions related to your IRAs.

Few legal documents are more fundamental than a Power of Attorney (POA). In fact, every “legal” adult should have one. Like most legal tools, the POA can be tailored to fit nearly every need.

The broadest POA is the “General Durable POA.” This gives the agent you appoint authority to do nearly every legal and financial act you can do for yourself, even when you are incapacitated. That is broad authority. In the wrong hands, it can be more than dangerous. Think of it as “legal dynamite.” In the right hands, it can be a blessing to you – and your loved ones.

On the other hand, it is possible to grant limited or specific POA authority. For example, you can limit the duration the POA is effective and even the specific acts you authorize. This can provide a degree of safety when you don’t want to grant open-ended authority.

Practically speaking, senior loved ones oftentimes have IRA accounts that need ongoing management and from which minimum required distributions must be taken. If these loved ones become infirm or develop cognitive issues, then their IRA accounts will need to be managed and administered for them. The Slott Report explored this legal and financial fact of life in a recent article titled “Using a Power of Attorney for an IRA.” One if the key take-a-ways from the article is that not all IRA custodians will treat various POAs the same.

In addition to appointing the right agent for your POA and selecting the right type of POA, be sure to confirm that your POA will be accepted by the third parties that will be asked to honor it. In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.

For more information, please visit my estate planning website.