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What is a power of attorney?

It is not always easy to plan for the future. Estate planning can be a complicated endeavor. First, one must confront his or her own mortality, which is never an easy thing to do. Second, the process itself can seem overwhelming, as the number of estate planning tools can seem limitless. To create a strong estate plan, though, Illinois and Indiana residents don't have to go at it alone. Instead, they can find assistance from a skilled estate planning attorney, who can walk an individual through the process and develop a plan that meets that individual's needs.

In many instances, an estate planning attorney will recommend that an individual create a power of attorney. Generally speaking, a power of attorney gives another person the ability to make decisions for another individual who is incapacitated. This power, of course, can be quite great, but the creator of the document can specify to what extent the agent will have control over the principal's matters.

For example, an agent may be designated to make all financial decisions including the giving of gifts, decisions regarding the principal's healthcare and guardianship decisions if the power of attorney is that broad. On the other hand, the power of attorney can be specific in nature, thereby limiting the powers that the agent holds.

With so much power, an agent should be chosen very carefully when creating a power of attorney. The agent can be anyone, but many settle on a spouse, family member, or close friend. Regardless of who is chosen, the individual must be trustworthy and able to keep accurate records.

Choosing to create a power of attorney can be critically important to one's estate plan, but it is also a decision that should not be made lightly. For this reason, it is often best to discuss the matter with an experienced attorney who can help an individual decide on a course of action that is right for him or her.

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