Durable Powers of Attorney: One Size Does Not Fit All
For most people, the durable power of attorney is the most important estate planning instrument available–even more useful than a will. A power of attorney allows a person you appoint – your "attorney-in-fact" – to act in your place for financial purposes when and if you ever become incapacitated.
However, instead of the one-size-fits-all powers that many lawyers prepare (and that are found in office supply store forms), each document should be custom-drafted to fit your particular needs.
In researching an article on ensuring that powers of attorney are properly crafted, MSN Money consulted Jan L. Warner, an elder law attorney in Columbia, S.C. Warner suggests asking your lawyer point blank whether your durable power will be like every other one he or she drafts. If the answer is yes, he advises, find another lawyer. Likewise, Warner recommends asking, "What information do you need from me to draft my power of attorney?" "If he says he doesn't need anything, you don't want that lawyer," says Warner.
A good power of attorney might contain many pages spelling out the things the agent can and cannot do on your behalf, such as make deposits, write checks from your accounts, sell real estate, sue someone who owes you money, make charitable gifts, draw down your 401(k) plan in specific circumstances, or receive compensation for his or her work. Making your intentions clear is the key.