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What is a durable power of attorney in Illinois?

A “Power of Attorney” document grants a person the power to act on behalf of another person. General power of attorney documents are frequently granted for a limited time or purpose. For example, in a real estate transaction, the seller of the property may give his or her attorney the power to sign closing documents on his or her behalf. In this case, the seller of the property is the “principal” named in the power of attorney document. The principal signs the document that appoints the attorney as an “agent” or as an “attorney-in-fact”. Once the closing ends, the power of attorney is no longer effective. The agent can no longer sign documents on behalf of the principal.

However, some powers of attorney are not limited by time or subject matter. A “Durable Power of Attorney” will stay in effect even after the principal is incapacitated. The durable power of attorney ends only after the principal dies. Therefore, durable powers of attorney documents are very useful estate planning tools. A health care durable power of attorney helps your family members continue your health care uninterrupted if you become disabled. Additionally, your family members may use a financial durable power of attorney to ensure that your bills continue to be paid.

A durable power of attorney is permitted by all fifty states. In fact, each state has a form that was created by the state legislature which individuals may use. Illinois law provides a form for both a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and a Durable Power of Attorney for Property and Finances. The forms are found in the Illinois state statutes and may be modified as necessary. For instance, the Illinois Durable Power of Attorney for Property provides that your agent may enter into loan transactions on your behalf. However, you may amend this power – or any other power – or delete it entirely.

If you become disabled or incapacitated, and you do not have a durable power of attorney in place, then your family may not be able to make decisions on your behalf. Your family need to institute guardianship proceedings in order to make health care decisions and financial decisions for you. Guardianship proceedings are generally straightforward, but they do take time and additional expense during a time in which your family may be reeling from your dramatic change in health.

At the Hays Firm, Durable Powers of Attorney are a key component of the Estate Planning services that we offer. When thinking about your estate, you need to consider more than just your current and potential assets. You need to consider your future as you age, planning for a period when you may be physically or mentally unable to manage your health care and financial decisions. The attorneys at Hays Firm are able to guide you through this planning, helping you determine the types of durable powers of attorney you may need. Feel free to contact us for a free one-hour consultation to begin creating your estate plan.