The Single Most Overlooked and Underappreciated Document in Your Estate Plan


When most of us think about estate planning, the first thing that comes to mind is a will, or perhaps even a trust, but most of us don’t realize how critically important it is to have the right durable financial power of attorney in place. You probably already know that a durable power of attorney enables your spouse, other trusted family member or friend to manage your property during your lifetime if you become incapacitated. You may also know that if you don't have a durable financial power of attorney, your spouse and family will have to go to court to have you declared incompetent in order to access your accounts and manage your assets.

However, did you know the right durable power of attorney can enable your agent to actually fix problems in advance that could derail your finances or your estate plan? For example, did you know the right durable power of attorney can empower your agent to establish a trust during your lifetime to manage and preserve assets, avoid probate, make gifts to your dependents to provide for their needs, manage your business, or spend down assets in order to qualify you for government benefits if you become permanently disabled or incapacitated? These powers can save you and your estate thousands of dollars that would otherwise be lost. 

Not every power of attorney can accomplish this and North Carolina recently enacted changes that make it more important than ever to obtain the right power of attorney for your age and circumstances. The new North Carolina statutory changes go into effect on January 1, 2018. South Carolina made statutory changes to its durable power of attorney act last year. Those changes went into effect January 1, 2017. Review your power of attorney with an attorney to ascertain what it allows your agent to do. If a vital power is accidentally omitted from your durable power of attorney and you become incapacitated, you cannot execute a new power of attorney later.  So enhancing the powers in your power of attorney is something you should consider doing in your fifties or sooner. If you do not have a durable financial power of attorney or you have an old durable power of attorney and are concerned that it is no longer sufficient, call 704-887-5242 and schedule an appointment.  



Image: Chris Bradshaw/Shutterstock

Nancy Roberts
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