An important part of your estate planning is the creation of a Power of Attorney (POA). This is a very powerful document, and a very useful one, that allows you to name a person (known as an agent) to manage your financial affairs when you are no longer able to do so, or if you simply wish to have them help you at any time. We create DURABLE Powers of Attorney, which mean that these documents remain in effect even if you become incompetent.
For most married couples, we suggest that you create a Power of Attorney naming your spouse as your first choice for agent and then another trusted family member as the Alternate. For our single clients, we suggest that you select an adult child, sibling or other trusted friend or family member. You should absolutely trust the persons you are selecting to hold this important job. An agent under a POA is obligated to use the power only in your best interest and to not mis-use it for his/her own benefit. The agent is under a fiduciary duty to you to act in a way that is consistent with your wishes and your overall estate plan. You can revoke a POA at any time, provided you are still competent, simply by telling the agent that she/he is no longer authorized to act as your agent.
One important aspect of having a POA executed is that if you were to become incompetent or incapacitated to the point where you were no longer able to manage your own financial affairs, the person you have selected as your trusted agent can take that role over for you. Without a POA, it is likely that someone would need to petition the Probate Court to be appointed as your Conservator in order to manage your finances. This public proceeding results in your private life potentially being opened up to strangers, and the person appointed to act as your Conservator may not be the one you would have selected.
The Maine Legislature, in an attempt to provide as much protection as possible to our elderly population, has required that the POA contain specific warnings in the document making certain the person executing the POA understands exactly what they are doing and allows them to make selections about what kind of powers they want their agents to have. The POA form is also required to include directions to the agents as to how they are to conduct themselves in the use of the POA. Although you may be tempted to use a POA form from the Internet, we would caution you that those forms may or may not contain all the statutorily required language necessary for the execution of a valid POA in Maine.