When most people think of estate planning, they believe it involves planning how to distribute their assets after they die. While this is true, creating a will is only part of a comprehensive estate plan. You also need to plan for your care during your lifetime if you are unable to take care of yourself. One important document that you want to have is a durable power of attorney.
What Is a Durable Power of Attorney?
A durable power of attorney gives someone you appoint the ability to handle your financial matters if you are unable to do so for yourself. The benefit of having a financial power of attorney is that someone can do this for you without the need to go to probate court to be appointed your guardian or conservator.
In Virginia, a financial power of attorney can be durable or non-durable. A durable power of attorney continues to be effective if you become incapacitated. A non-durable power of attorney would no longer be in effect if you were no longer able to make decisions on your own.
Most people pick a family member or close friend as their agent. When designating someone to take care of your finances, it is important to pick someone who is competent to take care of this for you and is someone you trust. It is also a good idea to appoint a successor agent in case the person you select is no longer able to assume these duties.
Your agent has a duty to look out for your best interests. Generally, a durable power of attorney gives an agent broad powers to handle your financial affairs, such as to pay your bills, purchase and sell real estate, and make investment decisions. However, you can specify the powers that you want your agent to have in this document.
What Are the Requirements for a Durable Power of Attorney to Be Valid?
Your financial power of attorney goes into effect when you sign it. The requirements for your durable power of attorney to be valid in Virginia are:
- You must be 18 years old or older.
- You must be competent and understand what you are signing.
- While your signature does not need to be notarized or witnessed, it is a good idea to have two individuals sign your power of attorney as witnesses. Some states require a power of attorney to have two witnesses to be valid. Taking the additional step of having two witnesses ensures that your power of attorney will be honored in another state if necessary.
Can You Terminate Your Power of Attorney?
If you decide that you no longer want a durable power of attorney, you can revoke it. You can only do this if you are still mentally competent. There is no set requirement for how to terminate a power of attorney under Virginia law, but it is best to do so in writing.
Are you ready to create your estate plan? Call our office to schedule a free consultation with our experienced estate planning attorneys to discuss your family’s situation and the estate plan that is best for you.