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Why shouldn't you be afraid of signing a power of attorney?

If you're approaching your senior years (or are already in them), you've probably already been advised to choose someone to hold your power of attorney (POA). Yet, many seniors hesitate -- often because they don't fully understand the limits placed on one.

Here are some facts that should ease your mind:

1. It only kicks in when it is needed

In other words, the person who holds your POA can only act within the limits granted by that document -- and only if you authorize him or her to act on your behalf.

For example, a POA for medical care only allows the person who holds it authority over your medical care -- not your finances. And, it only goes into effect when you're unable to make decisions for yourself. Similarly, someone who holds your financial POA can manage your bills and taxes for you, but only if you're not able to do them on your own.

That means you don't have to worry that signing a POA will sweep away your voice and your rights -- you'll be in charge of your own decisions as long as you can still make them.

2. It doesn't give someone free reign

Once the POA kicks in, the person who hold it has an obligation to act in your best interests.

For example, if you have a POA for medical care and a living will, that living will should guide the actions of the person with your POA. Someone who has your financial POA must take care to only use your money for your benefit -- not his or her own.

3. It doesn't survive you

Some people are afraid that giving one person their POA while they are alive might interfere with their will once they are gone. They're afraid that someone might deplete their bank accounts after they die -- depriving other heirs of a fair inheritance.

There's no reason to worry. The POA ends when you die. That's when the job of the executor of your estate begins.

There's no reason to fear giving someone you trust your POA. Consider taking the step as soon as practical -- it's an important part of planning for your senior years.

Source: aplaceformom.com, "5 Misconceptions About a Power of Attorney," Kimberley Fowler, accessed May 24, 2018

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