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Law Office of Michael D. DellaMonaca

Have a Plan for Life

When Do I Need a Power of Attorney?

Estate planning is important. Signing a power of attorney can be essential for those seeking to safeguard their financial resources and other assets.

The Tri-County Times explains in its article, “Power of attorney protects loved ones,” that a POA is granted to an “attorney-in-fact” or “agent.” It gives that individual the legal authority to make decisions for an incapacitated “principal.” The laws for creating a power of attorney vary based on the state.  However, there are some general similarities.

Many people think their families will be able to intercede, if an event occurs that leaves them incapacitated and unable to make decisions for themselves. That’s not always true. If a person isn’t named as an agent or granted legal access to financial, medica, and other information, family members may be left out. Further, the government may appoint someone to make certain decisions for an individual, if no POA is named.

Almost everyone can benefit from establishing a power of attorney.

A signed power of attorney will remove the legal obstacles that may arise in the event that a person is no longer physically or mentally capable of managing certain tasks.

A power of attorney is a broad term that covers a wide range of decision-making. The main types of POA are a general power of attorney, health care power of attorney, durable power of attorney and special power of attorney.

The responsibilities of some of these overlap, but there are some legal differences. For instance, a durable power of attorney relates to all the appointments involved in general, special and health care powers of attorney being made “durable”—meaning that the document will remain in effect or take effect if a person becomes mentally incompetent.

Certain powers of attorney may expire within a certain time period.

An agent appointed through POA may be able to handle many tasks, depending on what powers are granted in the document. They include banking transactions, filing tax returns, managing government-supplied benefits, deciding on medical treatments and executing advanced health care directives.

Although a power of attorney document can be completed on your own, sitting down with an experienced estate planning attorney is preferred to better understand the intricacies of this vital document and ensuring that it will be legally binding and properly prepared.

Reference: Tri-County (MI) Times (January 24, 2019) “Power of attorney protects loved ones”

Suggested Key Terms: Estate Planning, Power of Attorney, Healthcare Directive

How Older Travelers Can Stay Safe

One of the top dreams of retirees is to travel, whether to visit the kids and grandkids or go to all those places you did not have the time or money to explore when you were working and rearing your family. The joy of travel can turn into a nightmare, however, if you find yourself a victim of unsafe circumstances. Here are some recommendations from the U.S. Department of State on how older travelers can stay safe when abroad.

Months Before Your Trip

If there is a problem with your passport, you could get stranded at customs and immigration in a foreign country. When you first begin to plan your trip, pull out your passport and check the expiration date. If there are not at least six months left after you return from your travels, renew your passport.

Some people make the mistake of thinking that the six-month guideline applies to the day you start your trip. However, it actually refers to the date you get home. Just make sure you do not delay in sending in your renewal application. It can take several months or longer for you to receive your new passport.

Before You Finalize Your Travel Plans

Do not deposit any money or pay for your airfare, hotel, tours, or other costs, before you check out these websites:

  • The S. State Department website issues travel warnings to let you know when there is a safety concern in another country. You do not want to walk into the middle of a country’s civil war or other violence. The State Department will also let you know the legal requirements for entering specific countries. If you need a visa, follow the instructions on how to obtain one and allow plenty of time. Some countries allow you to get a visa online or at your arrival airport.
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issues guidance on required and recommended vaccinations for visiting particular countries. Some of these vaccines require multiple injections spaced weeks apart, so you should check well in advance of your trip. You might have to carry proof of vaccinations to be allowed into a country.

Money Makes the World Go ‘Round

It is no fun to be on your trip of a lifetime and suddenly be unable to use your bank or credit cards. Notify your banks and credit card companies of the dates you will be traveling, and in which countries, so they do not put a security freeze on your accounts. Find out where you can make deposits and withdrawals, while on the road.

Compare international transaction fees to avoid excessive charges. You can order some local currency from your bank to have on hand, as soon as you land in a country. Therefore, you will not have to stand in long lines at the currency exchange in the airport. Search online to find out where you can get the best currency exchange rate at your destination. Exchange rates fluctuate constantly, so be sure to check and recheck.

Medication

Some countries restrict certain medications that are legal in the United States. Check on the State Department website to find out if any of your drugs are illegal where you will be traveling. Always carry prescription medication in the original pharmacy container, and have your doctor write extra prescriptions for you, in case you lose your drugs. Carry enough medicine for the trip and some extra, in case you experience any delays.

Your local elder law attorney can help you prepare the legal documents that will give you peace of mind during your travels, and explain to you how your state regulations might differ from the general law of this article.

References:

AARP. “State Department Wants Older Travelers to Stay Safe.” (accessed December 29, 2018) https://www.aarp.org/travel/travel-tips/safety/info-2018/state-department-recommendations.html

U.S. State Department. “Country Information.” (December 30, 2018) https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages.html

CDC. “Vaccines. Medicines. Advice.” (December 30, 2018) https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel

Why is Financial Fraud So Risky for Seniors?

“[Financial fraud] is a very high risk for 100 percent of the elderly population,” said North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall. “Senior citizens have social security coming [in]. Maybe they have a pension [or] some savings. This is a magnet for crooks and people who want to take their golden years away from them and line their pockets with somebody else’s gold.”

WRAL.com says, in the article “Elderly population a ‘very high risk’ for financial fraud,” that scams looking to make a quick buck and disappear may be easier to see, than the subtle but truly harmful abuse that makes a more significant impact.

As people get older, they usually depend more on close family and friends for help, but it can be very easy to abuse that relationship. These types of activities usually target seniors who have diminished mental or physical capacities. Abuse can begin when seniors put their trust in the wrong people. It can be a very close, trusted family member or the caregiver—someone who’s very close physically or in relationship.

It’s not uncommon for a senior to be persuaded to change his will to benefit a person with whom he had developed a close relationship, only to find out the person had ulterior motives. This type of financial abuse or exploitation can also be hard to see initially.

“Sadly, so much of the elder abuse is done by somebody in the family who is trusted, who is caring for this person, and then takes advantage of them,” Marshall said.

“A word of caution to families–as folks get isolated and lonely, it is very important that they have social contact in a positive nature, every day. Not just somebody coming in to see if they’re walking around and eating,” Marshall said. “They need socialization. And therein becomes an avenue for crooks to follow.”

Seniors should also be wary of invitations to sales pitches masked as “free lunches,” charities that aren’t who they say they are and writing checks to unverified individuals. If it sounds too good to be true, the elderly should use extreme caution before making a financial commitment.

To prevent this, families can divide responsibility between more than one family member. If you have multiple children, giving each one access to the finances makes certain that anything bad will be detected quickly. Another option is to create a trust with the help of an elder law or estate planning attorney. A trust permits the designation of a trustee and requires a more thorough credentialing process to access the assets. An elder law attorney can help in creating a trust and can provide advice on any other methods to protect your finances.

It comes down to determining whom you can trust. Finding credentialed individuals to help you manage and establish safeguards for your assets is critical.

Reference: WRAL.com (January 2, 2019) “Elderly population a ‘very high risk’ for financial fraud”