Three words that make folks really nervous: POWER OF ATTORNEY.
Nothing like giving someone legal authority over your affairs to make you skittish.
I've had some experience with power of attorney. My wife, mother-in-law and I arranged one when my father-in-law was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's Disease. The power of attorney gave us tremendous peace of mind in a very difficult time, right up to his death.
If it's handled properly, a power of attorney is nothing to be nervous about at all. It can be a huge relief when it comes time to make tough decisions about your family's financial security.
Here are the different types of power of attorney, according to Martin S. Finn, Esq., CPA, partner in New York's Lavelle & Finn law firm:
* GENERAL POWER OF ATTORNEY. It gives the designee the power to act on your behalf in any financial matter if you are out of pocket. That doesn't meant out of commission. It means the designee acts on your behalf because you simply can't make a personal appearance in the matter, not because you are incapacitated.
* SPECIAL POWER OF ATTORNEY. It limits the designee's power to a specific period of time or to a specific transaction, like a real estate closing.
Neither of those powers of attorney are effective if you become incapacitated, so you really ought to have a DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY. Your doctor vouches for your condition -- that activates the durable power of attorney -- then your designee can do virtually everything from paying the bills to selling your house.
William W. Jones IV of The Jones Law Firm in East Memphis (www.midsouthdivorce.com, 'Lawyer Bill' on 98.1 The Max's Drake & Zeke, www.drakezeke.com) says in Tennessee, a durable power of attorney for health care decisions is handled separately from a standard durable power of attorney.
Don't play around with a power of attorney, picking up some boilerplate one at a business supply store or printing one from the Internet.
Get a lawyer you can trust to pound one out. That will make sure your security...and your family's security...is protected.