There’s More to a Power of Attorney Than You May Realize

HOBBIES ARE GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

Do you have a hobby? Hobbies can give meaning and purpose to your life in retirement. As Robert Putnam points out in his book, Bowling Alone, it’s easy to discount the importance of hobbies and social engagements. Putnam details the widespread decline in civic engagement, from PTA memberships to neighborhood potlucks and bowling leagues. Over a couple of generations, Americans have misplaced the concept of free time.

SPECIAL PLANS FOR YOUR SPECIAL PEOPLE

Lily is a beautiful, active and full of personality toddler who happens to have Down syndrome. Lily’s parents and I have been friends for years and I have the continuing pleasure of watching Lily and her siblings grow up. While Lily is becoming a physical therapy rock star and hitting all her milestones in a timely fashion, her parents have started planning for the future.

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WHY WE ENJOY OUR HOBBIES

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a hobby as “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation, engaged in especially for relaxation.” Hobbies include anything from playing a musical instrument to gardening, bird watching or sewing. A hobby is a way of focusing on something you enjoy just for the sake of that enjoyment. It may also be a way to clear your mental palette. You could be stressed out by a situation at work or the challenges of raising children and need an escape.

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A durable POA safeguards against unforeseen problems that may arise after someone already has a POA. Basically, it helps keep a POA valid in the event something changes drastically. A durable POA can be a general, special or health care POA that has a durability provision to keep the current POA (of any type) in effect. It is a good tool that can help in the event someone’s mental decline is too far for them to draw up another POA to accommodate new circumstances.


In addition to durability clauses, more things need to be specified in today’s POAs, Patton says. For instance, some financial institutions want to be specifically named in a POA, as well as having liability and online and social media accounts included. Other details to consider include giving gifts, which covers things such as writing a check to a grandchild for a birthday, and Medicare/Medicaid planning. No-arbitration clauses can be helpful for nursing home litigation.


Ultimately, a longer POA is better than a shorter one, Patton advises. Since POAs are ever-evolving, living documents – they’re no longer a one-time deal, Patton says – they should be reviewed every two years and rewritten every five years because laws change.

A power of attorney (POA) is a document that allows a person or organization to manage the affairs on behalf of another individual. Most people know at least this much about POAs, but not all POAs are created equally. They all appoint an attorney-in-fact – the person who will be making decisions on behalf of another – but each affords a different level of control. POAs are living documents that should be regularly updated, says Bluegrass Elderlaw senior associate attorney Mary Patton. It’s important to have the proper type of POA that includes all the stipulations required for each individual.


Who needs to have a POA? The obvious examples are the elderly and those with dementia. However, singles are advised to have a POA in place as well, especially if you live alone, have no close family and are scheduled for a major surgery; if you have been diagnosed with a serious medical condition; or if you have a business, even if you have no medical or economic concerns. Additionally, whether single or married, anyone with real assets who is leaving the country for a trip should have a POA. Obviously, not one type of POA would cover all individuals adequately.


A general POA gives broad powers to a person or organization, known as an agent or attorney-in-fact, to act on another’s behalf. These powers can include handling finances and business transactions, buying

THERE’S MORE TO A POWER OF ATTORNEY THAN YOU MAY REALIZE

life insurance, settling claims, operating business interests, making gifts and employing professional help. A general POA works well for someone who is leaving the country and needs someone else to handle certain matters. It also works for people who are physically or mentally incapable of managing their affairs. A general POA is often included in an estate plan to make sure someone can handle financial matters.


With a special POA, the powers an agent may exercise can be specified. These apply when a person cannot handle certain affairs due to other commitments or health reasons. Some specific powers outlined in a special POA include selling personal and real property, managing real estate, collecting debts and handling business transactions.


A health care POA gives the agent authority to make medical decisions on another’s behalf if they are unconscious, mentally incompetent, etc. This is not the same as a living will, although many states allow health care POAs to include a DNR – do not resuscitate. Some states allow individuals to combine parts of a health care POA and a living will into an advanced health care directive.   

ANGELA S. HOOVER

Angela S. Hoover is a Staff Writer for Living Well 60+ Magazine

more articles by Angela S. Hoover