While many people think of a power of attorney as an estate planning instrument that is most appropriate for the elderly, a power of attorney is one of the most fundamental components of an estate plan regardless of your age. Whether your power of attorney appoints someone to make healthcare decisions or to protect your financial interest when you are incapacitated, a power of attorney is one of the most fundamental and essential components of an estate plan. There are a range of functions that a power of attorney can serve, so generic power of attorney forms from stationary stores can be ineffective for your needs. This two-part blog post provides some answers to frequently asked questions about power of attorney forms under Kansas law.
What is a power of attorney in Kansas?
There are essentially two broad categories of power of attorney documents under Kansas law. One form of power of attorney authorizes an agent (referred to as your “attorney in fact”) to manage indicated financial affairs if you become incapacitated. Despite the term used to refer to your agent, the person you select does not need to be an attorney, but the individual should be someone you trust who is competent to make decisions to protect your financial interests. The grant of authority can be extremely narrow, such as the power to sign a contract on a specific date or sign papers to complete a real estate transaction. A power of attorney also can essentially grant plenary power to an agent to conduct all of your financial affairs. When preparing a power of attorney, the scope of authority can lie anywhere between these two extremes. Because the authority granted by a power of attorney can provide the agent with access to your bank accounts, investments and other sensitive financial matters, you must exercise caution in carrying out the following tasks:
- Selecting an attorney in fact
- Determining powers to be delegated
- Carefully crafting the language of the document
There is also another form of power of attorney that involves healthcare decisions as opposed to financial decisions.
How does a healthcare power of attorney differ from a financial power of attorney?
A healthcare power of attorney delegates very specific powers regarding medical decisions when the principal becomes incapacitated. Kansas has adopted the Uniform Durable Power of Attorney Act, which appoints an agent to make medical decisions if the principal become incapacitated or disabled. This disability can be the result of a catastrophic brain injury or Alzheimer’s disease. When you appoint someone familiar with your religious, medical and ethical values and wishes, your agent can be more safely entrusted than a medical professional to make decisions that are consistent with your preferences.
What is the difference between a durable power of attorney and non-durable power of attorney?
While a non-durable power of attorney terminates when the principal becomes incapacitated, a durable power of attorney takes effect or continues in full force and effect even after the principal becomes incapacitated.
If you have additional questions, you might want to read Part II of this blog post. If you have questions about estate planning issues, we welcome the opportunity to talk to you about an estate plan suited to your needs and goals. We invite you to call us at (316) 265-7802 or submit an inquiry form through this website to schedule your initial consultation.