Working with an estate and trust attorney can help an individual understand the scope of the power of the attorney they are granted and the breadth of the responsibilities and authority that the document is granting. Many individuals assume that the document is only valid when they lose capacity, but many powers of attorney are drafted and enacted immediately. Helping clients understand what the document does and assisting with the selection of an agent are ways that attorneys provide guidance through the estate planning process with regard to powers of attorney.
The scope of responsibility of the various categories of power of attorney in Maryland are important to understand, and working with a skilled Maryland attorney is essential to get the best understanding.
There are two primary types of powers of attorney in Maryland. There are powers of attorney that become effective upon a contingency. For example, a power of attorney document might only apply if an individual has been deemed to have lost capacity by three professionals. There are also powers of attorney that become effective immediately.
The category of power of attorney in Maryland that becomes effective immediately, in many cases, is no different than an individual acting on their own. This type of power of attorney does not require incapacity. For example, if an individual is on vacation and they need simple access to an account, a power of attorney may be able to assist with that matter.
Again, all the powers of the attorney-in-fact are outlined in the document itself. These provisions are what provide the attorney-in-fact their responsibility and their fiduciary responsibility, but also the scope and the breadth of the powers for which they may be able to act on behalf of an individual.
General Powers of Attorney
General powers of attorney are broad grants of authority that allow, in many cases, the attorney-in-fact to step almost entirely into the grantor’s shoes for financial and legal purposes.
Limited Powers of Attorney
Limited powers of attorney in Maryland are often granted for either a specific transaction or a specific use. For example, it is not uncommon in the process of purchasing real estate to grant power of attorney to the title company to make corrections to the documents.
An individual may grant power of attorney to sign their tax forms in the event that they are unavailable. They may also delegate specific aspects of a legal or financial matter, and not others. Examples might include granting power to maintain a property but not to sell or purchase real estate, or to invest assets but not to gift them. An individual can pick and choose which authorities they wish to grant.
Working with an Attorney
A lawyer will draft a document that is compliant with Maryland law. The Maryland Power of Attorney Act provides a statutory form that, in most cases, cannot be rejected by a financial or banking institution.
Many law firms create powers of attorney that provide a broader grant of powers than is required by the Maryland Statutory Power of Attorney Act, which may limit the grant of authority or the grant of powers that a fiduciary can have. These custom documents work in conjunction with the Maryland statutory form to allow for broader powers, such as the power to transfer assets or the power to disclaim. While a lawyer can never guarantee that a power of attorney will be accepted by a financial institution, they can create the document that has shown to be most effective in the past.