In this day and age of “do it yourself,” you might be tempted to believe that if you can change a light fixture without a professional, maybe you can prepare a power of attorney without a professional. Online, you can certainly find plenty of “fill-in-the-blanks” forms, information and expert advice, all making the project seem like an easy, money-saving idea. And, once your power of attorney is complete, you can admire the legal document you prepared. While you’re healthy, the power of attorney will seem successful because it is unlikely anyone will question its legality; but, will the success reign when you are in need? Is it worth the risk to find out?
There are many varieties and uses of a power of attorney. A fill-in-the-blanks form cannot adequately accommodate every situation, and online advice may not answer questions specific to your situation, or you may not know the specific questions to ask. Or, the advisor may not know about your state’s requirements, such as who can be a witness, how many witnesses are needed, whether or not it needs to be notarized, or other specific information required to uphold your power of attorney when it is needed, or if a dispute arises.
Although a power of attorney may seem simple, like many legal matters. There are intricacies and important nuances that, if not followed, can make it fail. Many boilerplate forms do not address important powers that may be needed in the future.
In our practice, we are regularly asked to help folks who have been told by a bank, financial institution, realtor or other business that their form power of attorney will not be accepted for one reason or another. Sometimes it is because the document was not created correctly and sometimes it is because the document does not adequately authorize the act which the user has sought to perform.
For these reasons, it is best to use an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney to help prepare the documents so things run smoothly when the need for the document arises.