Going through the legal landscape of estate planning can often feel like a complex journey. At Chesapeake Wills and Trusts, we’re here to guide you through every step, making the process as straightforward and stress-free as possible. Today, let’s talk about a crucial component of estate planning in Maryland: the Power of Attorney (POA).

What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you (the “principal”) to designate another person (the “agent” or “attorney-in-fact”) to make decisions on your behalf. This can include decisions about your finances, legal matters, and health care, especially when you’re unable to do so yourself due to illness or incapacity.

Types of Powers of Attorney in Maryland

In Maryland, there are several types of POAs, each serving different purposes and offering different levels of control:

  • General Power of Attorney: Grants broad powers to your agent in matters relating to your property and financial affairs.
  • Limited or Special Power of Attorney: Limits the agent’s powers to specific tasks or situations, such as selling a property.
  • Health Care Power of Attorney: Allows your agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you’re incapacitated.

Why is a Power of Attorney Important in Maryland?

Having a POA in place is vital for several reasons. It ensures that your financial matters, health care decisions, and legal affairs are handled according to your wishes, even when you’re not in a position to make these decisions yourself. It can also prevent the need for a court-appointed guardian, which can be a lengthy and often stressful process for your loved ones.

Choosing Your Agent

Selecting someone to act as your POA is a decision that requires careful consideration. This person should be trustworthy, reliable, and capable of making decisions in your best interest. It’s also wise to choose an alternate agent in case your primary agent is unable to serve.

Creating a Power of Attorney in Maryland

In Maryland, establishing a Power of Attorney (POA) is a proactive step towards ensuring your affairs are managed according to your wishes, even if you become unable to oversee them yourself. The process, while straightforward, requires attention to detail to ensure the document is legally binding and reflects your intentions accurately.

Steps to Create a POA in Maryland:

  • Determine the Type of POA You Need: Before drafting your POA, decide whether you need a General, Limited, Health Care, or Durable Power of Attorney. Each serves different purposes.
  • Choose Your Agent Wisely: Your agent will have significant responsibilities and access to your personal and financial matters. It’s crucial to select someone who is not only trustworthy but also capable of making decisions that align with your preferences. Consider discussing your expectations with potential agents before making a decision.
  • Draft the Document: While templates exist, it’s advisable to work with a legal professional to draft your POA. This ensures that the document meets Maryland’s legal requirements and accurately reflects your wishes. The POA must clearly identify you as the principal, name your agent, specify the powers granted, and state any limitations or conditions.
  • Signing Requirements: After drafting the POA, you (the principal) must sign the document in the presence of two adult witnesses. These witnesses cannot be the same individuals you have appointed as your agent or alternate agent and must be over the age of 18. Their role is to verify the authenticity of your signature and your capacity to understand the document you’re signing.
  • Notarization: For a Durable Power of Attorney, and in some cases, other types as well, notarization is required in Maryland. This means you must sign the document before a notary public. Notarization adds an additional layer of authenticity, confirming that the document is indeed your will.
  • Store the Document Safely: Once signed (and notarized, if necessary), store your POA in a secure, accessible location. Inform your agent(s) where the document is kept and consider providing copies to trusted individuals, such as your attorney or family members.

Revoking a Power of Attorney

It’s important to know that you can revoke your POA at any time, as long as you’re mentally competent. This revocation should be done in writing and communicated to your agent and any institutions or individuals that may be affected.

Connect With Chesapeake Wills and Trusts

Crafting a Power of Attorney is a foundational aspect of responsible estate planning. It’s not just about preparing for the future; it’s about ensuring peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

Call today at (410) 590-1900 or complete the online form to schedule a consultation with our friendly and knowledgeable team. At Chesapeake Wills and Trusts, we’re here to help you go thorugh the complexities of estate planning with confidence and ease.