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Do I need a lawyer to create a power of attorney?

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Q:

Do I need a lawyer to create a power of attorney?

A:

As much as we would like to be in full control of decisions involving our health care and finances, a time may come when we may have to allow a person whom we could trust, or a fiduciary, to act on our behalf. If you have become ill or disabled to the point where you can no longer speak or act for yourself, and you have no written documentation of what you would want to happen in such a situation, then a court may have to decide what is in your best interest.

Ideally, one shouldn't leave such decisions about your best interests to chance. In this case, a power of attorney is a simple way to arrange for someone else to handle your finances. Most people know that it is essential to have a power of attorney, and yet they put this task off because they believe that only a lawyer can do this. However, this is not true at all—you can create your own power of attorney. As you prepare to draft your own document, you should learn to be able discern under what circumstances it can be beneficial to have legal counsel to guide you.

Do-It-Yourself Power of Attorney

In truth, you may not need to retain counsel to draft your own power of attorney. If your current financial and health care situations are relatively simple, you can just go to your local library and find books on how to draw up your own documentation. Many law schools also allow their students to get hands-on practice in the legal profession by helping people create power of attorney contracts and other types of legal paperwork.

Of course, the Internet remains a favorite resource when it comes to do-it-yourself legal work. These options make it possible for you to devise a power of attorney without having to hire an actual attorney. Also, many websites such as nolo.com and ehow.com provide free information that walks you through the process of drafting a power of attorney, and how to make it an official, legal document.

When to Hire a Lawyer for a Power of Attorney

However, despite the prevalence of legal advice on the Internet and at your local library, few resources can actually take the place of a qualified and highly trained lawyer. If you genuinely want an ironclad power of attorney that will withstand any challenge or dispute, you should hire an attorney to create this document for you.

There are certain circumstances that make it necessary to hire a lawyer to create your power of attorney. Here are a few good examples:

  • Your finances are somewhat complicated.
  • You have a business partnership to protect.
  • You want your family to have a clear idea of what your wishes are if you have become incapacitated.
  • Anytime you are confused about the process of creating a power of attorney.

In such situations, it would be better to retain a lawyer who can make sure that your power of attorney is upheld. After that, the person of your choosing will be able to act on your behalf, and your finances and health care matters will be taken care of to your satisfaction.

Revocation and Changes to Power of Attorney

Having a lawyer's help can also be vital if you need to make changes to your power of attorney. If you get divorced or something changes in your family or business life, it is critical that you also change your power of attorney immediately. A lawyer can help you ensure that changes in your family or business life are correspondingly reflected in your power of attorney.

Your attorney can also fend off any challenges on any changes made. Without one, the people whom you wish to exclude from the power of attorney could challenge you in court and in essence be left on the document, and this could work against your best interests.

In reality, anyone can legally draw up their own power of attorney. However, you should know when to hire a lawyer and what benefits can come from having legal counsel help you with this concern.

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