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Common misconceptions regarding powers of attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document meant to transfer the ability to make certain decisions to another trusted individual under certain circumstances. While it may seem relatively straightforward, there are still some common misconceptions that Nevadans have about this type of document. Not having a full understanding of what to expect with a POA can result in some unexpected conflicts or legal challenges.

First of all, a power of attorney can't be signed if the grantor is legally incapable of making a sound decision. The document is intended to be drafted and signed in the event that the grantor becomes incapable of making decisions about their finances or similar affairs, not when they have already reached that point. A conservatorship or guardianship would be the appropriate option if this is the case.

Another misconception is that a POA can be quickly obtained online. The problem with doing this is that internet-downloaded POAs tend to be too ambiguous, which could allow for such documents to be challenged in court. Plus, they may not be valid in every state.

There is also some concern among individuals considering a POA that the designated agent may be able to do whatever they want with their estate. However, POAs have what's termed an implied fiduciary obligation. This means that the agent must do what's in the best interest of the person they are acting on behalf of.

Since there is no one-size-fits-all power of attorney, someone looking to name an agent should consider working with a lawyer. An estate planning attorney is often able to help a client determine whether a broader general power of attorney or a more specific limited or special power of attorney is the better option.

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