PB Elder Law is the only firm in WNY dedicated to elder law. Mel talks with attorney Charles W. Beinhauer, one of the partners in the firm. He says a power of attorney is a legal document in which an individual is able to appoint someone else to act for them in situations when they are either unavailable because they are out of the country, they are traveling, or they have suffered from an illness and are no longer able to act for themselves.
What does no longer able to act for themselves mean? Beinhauer says in the course of our lives we do many things. We buy real estate, we open and close financial accounts; many different types of financial transactions and power of attorney allows another individual to perform those actions for you. If you wanted to invest some money and you weren’t available locally, your power of attorney can go and sign all those documents to open that account or transfer those assets. If you draw the power of attorney properly they can make gifts on your behalf; they can transfer your assets if you are in a crisis situation they are able to move assets from one account to another so that you are able to preserve some assets for your family.
When do you need a power of attorney? Beinhauer says, in his case, he has three children and on their 18th birthday each one of them signed a power of attorney and a health care proxy and appointed him and his wife to act for them in case something ever happened. He says we don’t know when the time will come when you might lose the ability to act. You could have a car accident, an illness, and COVID certainly has awakened us to other possibilities that most of us have never thought of. He says the earlier you sign the power of attorney the better. If you don’t have one today, tomorrow may be too late. He says everyone needs it as soon as we become responsible, have any type of assets, a power of attorney is critical.
He says a power of attorney can be very narrow in scope or it can be very broad. It can cover every aspect of your financial life and any transactions you have to do. So depending on where you are in life, we judge that, and give recommendations as to the extensiveness of the power of attorney.