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Friday, March 31, 2017

Why We Were Thinking About Power of Attorney Documents on New Year’s Eve

When the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve we hope you were having a good time, and not thinking about your power of attorney documents. But we have a confession to make. We were thinking about power of attorney documents. Weird yes, but not totally bizarre. You see, South Carolina adopted a new law governing power of attorney documents in 2016, and it went into effect on January 1, 2017.

What Are Power of Attorney Documents?

Power of attorney documents are one of the most important parts of a modern estate plan. They allow you to say who will make decisions on your behalf if you have some sort of health problem that prevents you from making your own decisions.

Power of attorney documents can cover both healthcare and financial decision-making, and they can be set up to go into effect immediately, or only when needed.

For example, if you have a stroke, you may not be able to make important decisions, or communicate your decisions. If this happened, your power of attorney documents would spring into action and whoever you previously chose as your healthcare decision-maker could work with your doctors to get you the treatment you need. Meanwhile, your financial decision-maker could make sure your bills get paid on time out of your own checking account. After you recover, you could take over your own affairs again if you wanted to.

What Changed on January 1

On January 1, 2017, a new power of attorney law, the South Carolina Uniform Power of Attorney Act (SCUPOAA) went into effect, making the Palmetto State the 21st state to enact the Uniform Power of Attorney Act (UPOAA) since the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws enacted the UPOAA in 2006.

The biggest change that people are going to notice is that the new law makes power of attorney documents “durable” by default. This means that the documents are still valid if the person they belong to becomes incapacitated. Previously, the loved ones of someone who became incapacitated would have to go to court and get guardianship rights in order to exercise power of attorney-like powers unless power of attorney documents were specifically drafted in order to avoid the need to go to court. Not having to go to court is going to make things easier on the loved ones of people who become incapacitated.

South Carolinians Benefit From the New Law

One of the main benefits of the new law is that 20 other states have a nearly identical law. This means someone who does their estate planning in South Carolina, but then ends up moving to one of those states, does not need to rush to an attorney’s office to have new documents drawn up. The South Carolina documents will work exactly as intended.

It is important to note that power of attorney documents drafted in South Carolina will be valid in every state. And documents drafted in other states are valid here. But because different states have different laws, documents drafted in one state might work slightly differently in another state. This is the advantage of adopting the Uniform Power of Attorney Act. When the law is the same everywhere, there is no need to be concerned that a document will not work exactly as intended.

 


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