You may have a will, and perhaps you have even established a trust as part of your estate plan. However, like many in Illinois, you may be neglecting one of the most important and misunderstood elements of a complete estate plan: the power of attorney.
Making a power of attorney designation is not an easy thing to think about since it means relinquishing your control over your affairs. The fear of what may happen as a result is why many refuse to include this designation. If you have a more complete understanding of the power of attorney responsibilities and limitations, you may be more inclined to include one in your estate plan.
Points to consider
Each state has different rules and laws related to estate planning documents, so you will want to discuss your needs and concerns with a lawyer who knows the laws of Illinois. You will learn more details about the different kinds of powers of attorney that you can choose from and the pros and cons of each, for example:
- A springing power of attorney becomes effective only after doctors or the court has declared that you no longer have the mental capacity to manage your own legal or financial affairs.
- The durable power of attorney is active immediately after you sign it.
- While the springing power of attorney may allow you to maintain control while you are able, the courts must deem you incapacitated before your agent can take over, and this often means a delay in the management of your affairs.
- Your trustee will handle any assets you have funded to your trust in the event of your incapacitation, but your power of attorney designation allows your agent to manage those assets you failed to fund to your trust.
You may have the misconception that your power of attorney agent can handle your estate after you die. However, at the time of your death, the power of attorney expires, and the estate executor you named in your will takes over.
Getting over your fears
The great fear many have is that after they name someone as a power of attorney, that agent will then take advantage of the position and use the assets in the estate to his or her own advantage. The best way to avoid this situation is to take extreme care in choosing the person who will be your attorney in fact.
The next step you can take to prevent someone from taking advantage of you is to avoid using generic online forms and speak to an Illinois attorney who can help you design a unique estate plan that meets your goals and provides peace of mind.