Elderly woman with caneThis is the next post in our series on the differences between a conservatorship and a Power of Attorney (POA). Our last article discussed the limitations of each of these instruments. One key difference is that a Power of Attorney (POA) allows the individual who delegates decision-making authority to define the scope of the delegated power. With a conservatorship, by contrast, any decision-making authority will be defined by the Court. This article will expand upon that discussion by explaining how a Power of Attorney (POA) can assist you immediately without the need for court intervention, and can perhaps avoid the need for a future conservatorship altogether. However, a conservatorship is more appropriate for long term management of an individual’s financial and personal affairs because there is the safety of probate court oversight. If you are in Connecticut and need assistance, then contact our Hartford lawyers today to schedule an initial consultation.

Hartford residents can control future decision making through a Power of Attorney (POA)

As we have previously discussed, a Power of Attorney (POA) allows you to delegate decision-making authority over certain aspects of your life. These aspects can relate to finances, business decisions, healthcare decisions, etc. If you are concerned that you may need help with handling personal or financial affairs, then you can designate someone to make them for you using a Power of Attorney document (POA). Signing a Power of Attorney document (POA) allows you to ensure that such important choices are being made by someone whom you trust to follow your wishes and act in accordance with your beliefs and values. Since a mechanism for making such choices will then be in place, there will not be a need for your relatives or loved ones to go to Court and file for a conservatorship in the short-term, as the Power of Attorney document would enable the fiduciary to act right away on behalf of an individual. It is important to note, however, that a conservatorship is the preferred and more appropriate course for long term management of someone’s affairs as the conservatorship is overseen by the Probate Court thus providing the ward with the protection of said oversight.

It will be important for your Power of Attorney (POA) to be kept up to date. Suppose, for example, that Joe, a seventy-five-year-old man, executes a Power of Attorney (POA) granting authority to a relative to manage his affairs while he is undergoing and subsequently recovering from surgery. Given that he is not sure about the recovery, the Power of Attorney has no expiration period built in. The question is whether the Power of Attorney will enable the relative to act several years later. A bank or other financial institution is not likely going to honor a Power of Attorney document that is several years old especially where it references a surgery that occurred years in the past.

Banks and other institutions tend to narrowly construe the validity of the Power of Attorney as they don’t want to be liable for allowing a fiduciary to access financial accounts if the Power of Attorney has terminated. The easiest way to deal with this problem is for Joe to re-execute a Power of Attorney document every so often so that the execution is up to date. If the Power of Attorney is too old, and Joe, due to health reasons, can no longer manage his own affairs, then Joe’s relative will have to go to Court for a conservatorship before he can act on Joe’s behalf. Such a need could have been avoided if Joe had regularly met with his attorney to keep his planning documents up to date.

Contact a Hartford estate planning lawyer if you are preparing a power of attorney

If you are preparing a Power of Attorney (POA), then it is important that you discuss your plans with counsel. A qualified representative will help you consider various possibilities which may not have been part of your planning process. They will also assist you in understanding whether your Power of Attorney should be more broad or narrow than what you are currently considering. Finally, by having your documents prepared by an attorney you help to ensure that they will be enforceable.

Our Hartford estate planning lawyers have been serving the area for decades. We are proud of the level of service which we provide to our clients. If you need assistance then contact us online or by telephone. We look forward to speaking with you. We also service the Connecticut areas of Wethersfield, New Britain, Rocky Hill, East and West Hartford, Bristol, Glastonbury, and Manchester, as well as the Middlesex County cities of Middletown and Cromwell.