The power of attorney (not just) for property

With the rise of revocable living trusts for estate planning, the durable power of attorney has often been pushed into the background. But is is still a very important tool, even if most or all of your property is owned by a trust.

The ability to name an agent through a power of attorney is very flexible. You can give as few or as many powers to your agent as you wish. These are some of the more useful things an agent can do for you:

  1. Apply for public benefits for you. Your agent can file on your behalf to receive SSI or Medicaid benefits. Medicaid is an important way that many people use to pay for their nursing home care — something I will be discussing more in the coming weeks.
  2. Manage property not owned by your living trust. Unless an irrevocable life insurance trust is used, people often own life insurance in their own name. Your agent can also manage your IRA accounts, 401(k) accounts, or company pension account that an incapacity trustee would not be able to help with.
  3. Sign contracts on your behalf. Your agent can sign contracts for you, such as nursing home admission papers.
  4. Hire an attorney. An agent can hire an attorney to represent you in a variety of matters — medicaid planning, filing a lawsuit, filing for bankruptcy.
  5. Make gifts for planning purposes. You can authorize your agent to make gifts on your behalf for tax planning or Medicaid planning purposes.

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