Make Sure Your Power of Attorney Works When Needed
Daughter Helping Mom With Power of Attorney

Make Sure Your Power of Attorney Works When Needed

If you present a POA (Power of Attorney) to a bank and the agents are described as Bill and Samantha, for instance, instead of Samantha or Bill, the bank clerk may bristle. John as agent under power of attorney with Mary as successor agent is more likely to be acceptable. The use of the word “and” in a POA often presents a problem to banks. Did the document get drafted with the intent that Bill and Samantha both be present for any transactions? Having the right power of attorney is critical.

In Pennsylvania, major changes were made to the POA law in 2014 that addressed wording, witnessing and other requirements and protections for the party accepting the POA. The “Vine fix” law describes what a bank, financial institution or other party who is presented with a POA can and cannot do. The “Vine fix” provides immunity to anyone who accepts a POA in good faith, without actual knowledge that the POA is invalid, says The Mercury in the article “Planning Ahead: Will your bank honor your power of attorney?”

This law came about as a result of a case, Vine v. Commonwealth of PA State Employees’ Retirement Board. A Pennsylvania State employee, who was incapacitated following a car accident and a stroke, was given a POA to sign by the man who was then her husband. He changed her retirement options and later filed for divorce. At issue was the question of whether Mrs. Vine could invalidate his option and file for disability benefits. She did not have legal capacity, when she signed the document.

This was a case of hard facts making bad law. The State Supreme Court found that a third party (the Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement Board) could not rely on a void power of attorney, even where it did not know it was void when it was accepted. Banks saw the decision and were concerned that they could be sued for damages in similar cases.

The new law offers some immunity and additional protections for banks. However, as a result, there’s a little more push back with banks recognizing agents under power of attorney. The bank can request an agent’s certification or affidavit or opinion of counsel, as to whether the agent is acting within the scope of his legal authority. There is still a civil liability for refusing to accept a power of attorney that meets all the requirements.

Some estate planning attorneys have their clients obtain Power of Attorney forms directly from the institutions. This decreases the chances of any problems, when POAs are presented. It’s also a good idea to update the POA when you update your estate plan, which should be every three or four years. Regardless of your state of residence, a POA dated 10 or 15 years ago is likely to meet with some scrutiny. Talk with your estate planning attorney about the best way to address this in advance.

Learn what a good power of attorney can do for you.

Reference: The Mercury (April 2, 2019) “Planning Ahead: Will your bank honor your power of attorney?”

Are You Spending Your Children’s Inheritance?
Spending Your Children's Inheritance or Preserving the Nest Egg

Are You Spending Your Children’s Inheritance?

Once you get to retirement, it’s important to identify what your goals are for your nest egg. Do you intend to spend it down enjoying your golden years, pursuing passions and activities that bring you and your spouse joy, or do you want to leave an inheritance to loved ones? The question, whether to spend your children’s inheritance, is posed in the article “Will You Spend Your Retirement Savings or Leave It Behind? The Answer May Surprise You,” from the Warwick Advertiser.

For many people, the goal of retirement is to do all the things that had to be put off while working. That might include a hobby that requires time and resources, travelling, purchasing a vacation home, or fulfilling a dream of going back to school. If that’s your retirement dream, bear in mind that these dreams all come with costs. Spending in the early stages of retirement often goes up, as retirees are still healthy enough to do everything on their bucket lists.

Given the reality of longer life expectancies, it’s important for retirees to understand that they may be living from their retirement investments for three or more decades. That means that you’ll need to have enough money to cover routine expenses plus health care and most likely, long-term health care services. Make sure your financial planning takes these factors into account.

Once you know how much money you’ll need for your costs of living and health care, plus inflation, then what’s left behind is your retirement fun money.

Knowing how to work within the constraints of a budget, is actually more important during retirement. You can’t just go back to work for a few decades, if you find yourself running short. You still may need to pick up a part-time gig on the side. However, that income is quite lower than a full-time position at the peak of your earning career.

What if leaving a legacy is more important to you than buying a second home? Just like the plan for retirement fun, you’ll need to do some financial planning to make this goal come to fruition. Remember that your legacy will include whatever is left at the time of your death, as well as what you may give while you are living.

Giving your children or grandchildren their inheritance while you are alive, is a way to enjoy the gift twice — once when you give and a second time when you see what they do with your gift. You might want to help the family reach their own financial milestone, like covering the cost of a college degree, helping with a deposit on a home or helping to pay off a mortgage.

Charitable giving may also be part of your legacy. If there is a charity, foundation, or alma mater that aligns with your values, you may choose to set aside a portion of your estate for a donation.

Regardless of whether you are planning on spending everything, giving away your assets to family members, or to a preferred charity, an estate plan is necessary to ensure that your wishes will be followed.

Your estate plan needs to include written instructions on how you want your assets to be distributed. That usually happens through a will, and trusts are often part of an estate plan. Make sure that you know what your beneficiary designations are—these are the people who are named in your insurance policies, investment accounts, IRAs, 401(k), or other retirement accounts. They will receive the assets as noted in the beneficiary designations, regardless of what your will says.

Learn more about preserving the nest egg.

Reference: Warwick Advertiser (April 18, 2019) “Will You Spend Your Retirement Savings or Leave It Behind? The Answer May Surprise You”

Wills v. Trusts: What’s Right for You?

It’s a good idea to take the time and make the effort to create an estate plan to take care of your estate — no matter if it’s a condo apartment and a housecat or a big house and lots of money in the bank — just in case something unexpected occurs tomorrow. That’s the advice from AZ Big Media in the article “The pros and cons of wills vs. trusts.”

Estate planning is the area of the law that focuses on the disposition of assets and expenses, when a person dies. The goal is to take care of the “business side” of life while you are living, so your family and loved ones don’t have to pick up the pieces after you are gone. It’s much more expensive, time-consuming and stressful for the survivors to do this after death, than it is if you plan in advance.

You have likely heard the words “trust” and “will” as part of estate planning. What are the differences between the two, and how do you know which one you need?

A will is the most commonly used legal document for leaving instructions about your property after you die. It is also used to name an executor — the person who will be in charge of your assets, their distribution, paying taxes and any estate expenses after you die. The will is very important, if you have minor children. This is how you will name guardians to raise your children, if something unexpected occurs to you and your partner, spouse or co-parent. The will is also the document you use to name the person who you would like to care for your pets, if you have any.

Burial instructions are not included in wills, since the will is not usually read for weeks or sometimes months after a person passes. It’s also not the right way to distribute funds that have been taken care of through the use of beneficiary designations or joint ownership on accounts or assets.

Another document used in estate planning is a trust. There are many different types of trusts, from revocable trusts, which you control as long as you are alive, and irrevocable trusts, which are controlled by trustees. There are too many to name in one article, but if there is something that needs to be accomplished in an estate plan, there’s a good chance there is a special trust designed to do it. An estate planning attorney will be able to tell you if you need a trust, and what purpose it will serve.

Trusts can be used by anyone with assets or property.

A will can be a very simple document. It requires proper formats and formalities to ensure that it is valid. If you try to do this on your own, your heirs will be the ones to find out if you have done it properly.  If it is not done correctly, the court will deem it invalid and your estate will be “intestate,” that is, without a will.

Many people believe that they should put all their assets into a trust to avoid probate. In some cases, this may be useful. However, there are many states where probate is not an onerous process, and this is not the reason for setting up trusts.

A trust won’t eliminate taxes completely, nor will it eliminate the need for any estate administration. However, it may make passing certain assets to another person or another generation easier. Your estate planning attorney will be able to guide you through this process.

Whether you use a will or a trust, or as is most common, a combination of the two, you need an estate plan that includes other documents, including power of attorney and health care power of attorney. These two particular documents are used while you are living, so that someone you name can make financial decisions (power of attorney) and medical health decisions (health care power of attorney) if you should become incapacitated, through illness or injury.

Speak with an estate planning attorney. Every person’s situation is a little different, and an estate planning attorney will create an estate plan that works for you and protects your family.

Reference: AZ Big Media (March 21, 2019) “The pros and cons of wills vs. trusts”