When it comes to planning for one’s future, there are a lot of legal documents out there that some people think are unnecessary or that they simply do not understand. A power of attorney is a great document for Illinois residents to consider when going through the estate planning process. Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions about what a POA can do and how it works. Hopefully, some of those misconceptions can be cleared up in this week’s column.

The first thing that will be discussed is where to get a power of attorney. It is possible to go online and find a basic POA form. That seems like a good idea, but in reality it may be insufficient for one’s needs. A basic form may not cover state legal requirements, it will not be detailed to fit one’s situation and may be deemed invalid if it is questioned in court.

Next, let’s discuss the different types of POAs — yes, there is more than one kind. There are general and limited. A general POA will give a person or persons of one’s choice the ability to handle all of one’s affairs either immediately or upon one’s incapacitation. A limited POA, on the other hand, will only grant the assigned representative the right to do certain things. With either of these documents, the assigned representative has to act in one’s best interests; it does not give the rep free rein to do whatever he or she wants.

Finally, the last thing that will be discussed has to do with the signing of a POA. In order for a POA to be legally valid, it has to be signed while one is in the proper mindset to do it. A POA cannot be signed by someone who is legally incompetent.

A power of attorney is a great way to ensure one is taken care of in the event that he or she is unable to make decisions for him or herself due to incapacitation. It is also a good way to allow a spouse or other family member to handle certain affairs when one cannot be present to handle those affairs. Illinois residents who are interested in POAs can turn to an experienced estate planning attorney to get their questions about these documents answered and to create legally binding POAs that will truly serve their best interests.