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Estate planning provides easy tools for complicated problems

The durable power of attorney is a legal instrument that all West Virginia residents should consider as a necessity for an estate plan. The durable power of attorney can be a tremendously useful document in providing for unexpected consequences such as mental incapacity due to an illness late in life. Normally, when a person becomes incompetent to handle his or her own affairs, the family incurs extraordinary additional expenses to have a guardian or conservator appointed by the court. This can be avoided through some simple estate planning.

The durable power of attorney, which is made up as part of the estate plan while one is competent and functioning, will take over in the event of temporary or permanent mental incapacity of the principal, i.e., the person who creates the document. The principal appoints an agent in the document. The agent is given the authority to sign the principal's name to all of the legal matters and other matters needed on a daily basis.

The power of attorney can apply to legal and financial decisions necessary for the continued smooth running of the principal's financial affairs. A special power of attorney can be made up that provides the agent with the authority to make health care decisions on behalf of the principal. The principal selects the agent in these documents so that it is usually a trusted family member or friend.

With that relationship, the principal will be able to explain his desires to the agent and keep the agent informed of his wishes while the principal is still competent. When the agent must be replaced for any reason, the principal has the option of making the change by amendment or by making up a new document. The power of attorney, however, is just one document of several in the estate planning process in West Virginia. There are numerous other important considerations and documents that may be considered. Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney is the best way to find out what other options and plans can still be provided for you.

Source: bakersfield.com, "Durable powers of attorney: Does your estate plan need an extra layer of protection?", Kevin M. Danley, Aug. 14, 2017

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