When does a power of attorney go into effect?

Like most people who are considering their estate plans, you’re thinking about the future. There may come a time when you’re not able to handle your own financial affairs or make your own medical decisions. Yet, the thought of giving anybody too much control over your life right now through a power of attorney (POA) makes you uncomfortable because of the potential for fraud or misuse. Is there a solution?

Absolutely. While durable powers of attorney typically go into effect immediately and last until they’re revoked, you can use a “springing” power of attorney instead. A springing POA can be designed so that it only goes into effect when specific conditions are met. Typically, that would be in a situation when you’re mentally incapacitated.

Before you decide to go that route, however, there are a few things you need to consider. A non-springing POA may be more advantageous because:

  1. It can be more convenient. If you suffer from mobility issues or other physical problems, trying to manage your own affairs can be exhausting. With a POA, your agent can act on your behalf and handle many time-consuming chores, like your banking and your bill paying.
  2. It’s easier to avoid complications. If your POA requires a determination of incapacity, there could be unfortunate delays or problems that prevent your agent from acting. They may even have to go to court before they can act.

The real question may be whether you should trust someone with your POA if you harbor any doubts about their honesty and integrity.

Making these kinds of decisions on your own can be very difficult. It may help to speak with an attorney who has experienced estate planning attorney can explain all of your options.