Posts tagged durable power of attorney
Is a durable power of attorney better than using a revocable living trust?

A durable power of attorney allows you (the "principal") to name someone (i.e., your "agent") to manage your assets. This can be especially helpful if you become incapacitated and want to avoid having a conservator appointed.

In fact, most comprehensive estate plans prepared by lawyers include a durable power of attorney. Durable powers of attorney, however, have some disadvantages that revocable living trusts do not have. 


A durable power of attorney does not avoid probate at the time of death.

Fiduciary Duty

Agents under a durable power of attorney generally have fewer obligations than trustees of a trust, and are tasked with only typical fiduciary obligations. The agent under a power of attorney is also not required to act on your behalf.


Agents under a durable power of attorney are not required to keep beneficiaries reasonably informed, unless demanded by the principal or by court order.  In contrast, a trustee of a trust has an obligation to keep beneficiaries reasonably informed of the trust and its administration.

Acceptance by Financial Institutions

One practical downside of durable powers of attorney is that financial institutions are often reluctant to accept the document. Sometimes banks and other institutions have internal policies requiring their own forms be used. Assets titled in the name of a trust, on the other hand, typically do not have this problem as financial institution usually feel more confident in relying on trust documents.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney? (A Brief Overview)

A shorty, but a goody today. The Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you to name someone (also known as an "attorney-in-fact" or "agent") to make financial decisions for you. The Durable Power of Attorney can even be drafted broad enough to allow the agents to make gifts on your behalf or to transfer assets to your revocable living trust if you have created one. This document is only effective while you're alive. 

Why Do You Need One?

Most people only plan for death, but with advancements in medicine, it's possible to be alive for quite a while but be incapacitated to the point where you're unable to make decisions regarding your assets. Having a Durable Power of Attorney can help you avoid a court-supervised conservatorship and may allow your loved ones to act more quickly in the event that something happens to you and important decisions need to be made regarding your financial affairs.

Overlap With Trustees?

You may be thinking that the agent under a durable power of attorney would seem to have a conflict of interest with the Trustee of your Trust, but that is generally not the case. First, the agent under your Durable Power of Attorney is often the same individual that you've chosen to be your successor Trustee. Second, your Trustee deals with assets contained within your revocable living trust, whereas the agent under your Durable Power of Attorney principally deals with assets that are outside of your trust.

The Durable Power of Attorney is frequently a standard document that is incorporated into an estate plan, so don't be surprised if your estate planning lawyer includes one for you as well. Even if the cost of estate planning is outside of your budget, I encourage everyone to have a Durable Power of Attorney, as it is inexpensive to prepare and can even be found in the California Probate Code (Section 4401).

What is it like working with an estate planning lawyer? (Step 3)

After the first real meeting, the estate planning lawyer may have additional follow-up questions. But at this point, assuming you've made some key decisions, the lawyer should have enough data to begin researching any issues (if any) and drafting your estate planning documents. A typical estate plan in California consists of the following documents:

  1. Revocable Living Trust
  2. Pour-over Will
  3. Durable Power of Attorney (Financial Decisions)
  4. Advance Health Care Directive
  5. Assignment of Assets
  6. One or more real property deeds

Draft Documents

After an initial draft of the documents have been prepared, the estate planning lawyer will typically send them to you via e-mail or regular mail so that you can look them over and ask any questions you may have. Alternatively, you may wish to set up an appointment to go over each document with the guidance of your lawyer. This meeting doesn't need to be in person, and can be over the phone.


If during your review you notice things that you would like to change or things that don't accurately reflect your wishes, now is the time to tell the lawyer so that he or she may update the documents before you sign them. The estate planning lawyer may re-send you the updated documents to ensure that the content has been revised to your specifications.

The end result should be a set of draft documents that is ready for signing, witnessing and notarizing.

What if you become incapacitated but you're still alive?

Figuring out what to do with your assets after you pass away is a large component of estate planning, but generally, planning for the proper management of your financial and health care while you're alive is another major component. There are 3 broad avenues that may need to be used if you become incapacitated to the point where you are no longer able to express your wishes.

Medical Decisions

First, the Advance Health Care Directive may be needed to give proof to doctors or hospitals that the agent you've selected has the authority to make medical decisions for you. Without this, your family might run into conflicts about what you want regarding medical treatment.

Financial Decisions

Second, the Durable Power of Attorney may need to be recorded in the county where you own real estate or be provided to financial institutions where you have accounts so that your agent can transact on your behalf. This can be a huge benefit and help your family avoid the need to have a conservator appointed for you.

Successor Trustees

Third, if you've established a trust, the successor Trustee of your Trust may need to be called into action to take control of the trust assets so that they can continue to be used for your benefit. For those who have trusts, the assets held by that trust can only be utilized by those who have authority to do so, and the successor Trustee is the first in line. This also helps your family avoid the need for a conservatorship.

As such, the nature of an estate plan can be just as important while you're alive as it is after you pass away.