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Estate planning is important to do early enough in life before an illness or disability takes away one's ability to make important decisions for him- or herself. Planning for a time in life when people may become mentally or physically incapacitated can help them feel more comfortable about their futures. A power of attorney that puts someone they trust in charge of financial and healthcare decisions can help residents in Maryland feel more secure about how their affairs will be handled when they are no longer able to make decisions on their own behalf.

In most cases, a power of attorney has an agent whose power does not take effect until the principal person is no longer able to act alone. In some cases concerning finances, the executor cannot make decisions until two doctors have found the principal to be incapacitated. No matter when the agent steps in, he or she should always act in the principal's best interest.

The power of attorney document warns the principals that they are giving a lot of control over their finances to another party. Because of this, principals should carefully review the document with their attorney. Also, a principal should be extremely cautious when deciding on whom they wish to appoint as an agent. Rest assured, however, that a power of attorney does not give the agent the power to change the wills of the principals.

A power of attorney can be a powerful tool for people to have when they are no longer able to carry out their own wishes, and those who are named as an agent are taking on a lot of responsibility on behalf of the principal. It is important for Maryland residents to understand this and to realize that they may need help in designing these documents to best fit their wishes. Attorneys who focus on estate planning can help principals create the documents that would best fit the principal's needs.

Source: pottsmerc.com, "Duties and responsibilities of an agent under a power of attorney", Kathleen Martin, July 5, 2015

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