In the fourth video of the Coronavirus preparedness series, Wes Coulson discusses the importance of having a financial power of attorney.
In another video, I mentioned that having a power of attorney for financial matters, known legally as a power of attorney for property, is one of the essential things that you need to have in place to be prepared. What I want to talk about this time, is why that’s the case and the consequences if you don’t have one in place.
Why you need a power of attorney for property is first of all, if you need money to pay bills, if there are things that need to be deposited, if there are any kind of financial matters that need to be attended to, you can’t just assume that they will give a relative access to accounts or account information. It has to have someone with legal authority, and that’s a power of attorney. Like a lot of other people when this started to hit, I got a little bit spooked and pulled some of my investments out of the stock market into something temporarily safer. If you don’t have someone with a power of attorney, even if you’ve put their name on a checking account, that’s not going to help you if your investments are going down the tubes and nobody has authority to step in to stop that.
If it would happen that you take a turn for the worse, and we’re trying to get assets out of your name before you die to keep you out of probate, no one will have the authority to do that.
In short, a little bit of a mess. And when we say that someone will have the authority, of course there is another big question there, and that is, “Who is going to have that authority?” You certainly want it to be the person that you’ve chosen, not somebody who steps up and says, “Well, I’ll be in charge,” because in my experience, usually the person that steps forward like that is probably near the bottom of your list of people of who you would want to do it.
There are only two people in the world who can give somebody the authority to make and carry out financial decisions for you. One is you, that’s the power of attorney for property. The other is a judge in a court proceeding: Guardianship in Illinois, Conservatorship in Missouri. So if you don’t have a power of attorney, your alternative is a very time-consuming, very expensive court proceeding. You really don’t want to go there, so go the quick, easy, inexpensive way, do yourself a favor, and get a power of attorney for property in place.
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Coulson Elder Law is dedicated to providing families in the St. Louis area with their Elder Law needs. Our practice areas include Asset Preservation Planning, Veterans Benefits, Medicaid Eligibility, Alzheimer’s Planning, Special Needs Planning, Estate Planning and more. We understand the financial challenges you may face as you and your loved ones grow older. At Coulson Elder Law, our clients’ well-being is our number one priority. For immediate help, call (618) 632-7000 (IL) or (314) 567-9292 (MO), or Contact Us and we will get in touch as soon as possible.