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Death is an inevitable fact of life. However, when most people in Maryland or in any other state die it is not usually a sudden event, but rather a slow process. Usually people will experience a steady decline in health caused by illness, injury, disability or simply natural aging. In many instances, a person may become no longer capable of making decisions for himself or herself, which could require a durable power of attorney.

A power of attorney document enables one to choose a person who would be in charge of handling some or possibly all business and financial affairs of a person when he or she is incapable of doing so. The designated person is known as 'the agent' while the person who chooses the agent to handle his or her affairs is known as 'the principal.' This type of legal document is essentially a contract between to two competent adult individuals. However, the document does not apply if the principal dies or is incapacitated.

On the other hand, there is another type of legal document which could be used in the case of incapacitation. A durable power of attorney document is designed to allow the agent to have control over the principal's finances in the case that the principal is legally incompetent. For instance, if the principal suffers a stroke and is unable to make decisions regarding finances, the legal document would have language that gives the agent permission to make decisions in that circumstance.

It is important for an individual in Maryland or in any other state to make sure to properly draft a power of attorney or a durable power of attorney document. The language in the legal document has to be correct in order to ensure it is legally enforceable when it is needed. Having a strong grasp on the applicable laws and how to apply them will be critical in drafting an effective legal document.

Source: Michigan State University Extension, "Planning ahead: Power of attorney - part 1," Christy Rivette, June 15, 2013

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