With our expert and convenient modes of transportation, people can travel all across the globe. Although traveling should be fun, there are still bad things that can happen during your adventures. You can have peace of mind that all your financial responsibilities will be met while you travel though, through the use of a Durable Power of Attorney. For my discussion of a Limited Power of Attorney to handle a particular transaction while you are away, such as a real estate closing, see my blog article here.
Generally, a Durable Power of Attorney allows you to appoint a person to access your financial accounts and handle your finances in the event that you are unable to do so yourself. Most people execute this document with the rest of their estate planning documents as part of their overall estate plan, but it is also good to have a Durable Power of Attorney in place while you travel. If you trust this person enough to not take advantage of you, you can give them the authority to access your financial accounts at that very moment by having them sign an Acknowledgement accepting responsibility for your finances, before you even leave on your trip. This would allow your agent the ability to immediately access your financial accounts in the event that something happened to you while you were away. If you do not want them to have that authority unless it is absolutely necessary, then they would not sign the Acknowledgement at that time, but if something were to happen to you while you were away, your agent would have to get written verification by a doctor that you are incapacitated, and then go to your attorney to sign the Acknowledgement. This is a personal choice for everybody and it depends on the relationship you have with your agent. Only after your agent has signed the Acknowledgment would banks and other financial institutions allow your agent access to your accounts.
Take the following situation: while I am trekking through the Amazon Rainforest, I am nervous that I might be injured during a run in with a rattlesnake, or I might be poisoned after accidentally touching a poison dart frog and I may have to spend time in a hospital recovering. Due to my nervousness, before I left, I executed a Durable Power of Attorney appointing my sister as my agent in the event that I am unable to handle my finances. The language in the Durable Power of Attorney states that if I cannot handle my finances, my sister can do it for me. This power is easily revoked, so once I return home, I can have my attorney draft a Revocation, taking away my sister’s ability to access my bank accounts and other financial accounts and allowing me total control again.
If you are traveling and you have financial responsibilities back home, it would be prudent to see an attorney to execute a Durable Power of Attorney to make sure your bills will be paid and your other financial responsibilities will be taken care of if something bad were to happen to you while you are away.
Andrea Nelson is an attorney at Hamblett & Kerrigan who focuses her practice in the area of estate planning, including wills, trusts, health and financial powers of attorney. Attorney Nelson can be reached at [email protected].