This month’s question highlights the difference between taking care of your heirs and taking care of yourself:

“I have a Will, why do I need a Power of Attorney?”

These two legal documents have very different purposes.

  • A Will – also called a Last Will and Testament – specifies what you want to give away at your death to your heirs, friends and/or charities.
  • A Power of Attorney – protects you while you are still living, making sure your income and assets are used for you while you are alive.

You must have a valid written Power of Attorney document designating an Agent – and if you want, Successor Agents – to take care of and manage your financial affairs if you become seriously ill or incapacitated and cannot pay your bills, manage your financial affairs, apply for government benefits like Medicaid, sell real estate, etc. Only an attorney can prepare a Power of Attorney document for you.

At your death, the Power of Attorney is no longer valid.

It’s best to have both documents – the Power of Attorney to protect you while living and your Will to provide for your heirs after your death.