A common misconception that many in Saint Charles have about estate planning is that it only involves preparing for how one's assets will be distributed after he or she is gone. It is important to remember that estate plans should also consider what to do in the event a person's ability to make decisions for him or herself is hindered. This is where the idea of power of attorney comes into play. While handing over decision-making responsibilities to another might seem disabling, one should know that Missouri law does not leave him or her at the mercy of an attorney in fact once such authority has been granted.
According to Section 404.710 of Missouri's state statutes, a principal (one who grants power of attorney to another), is allowed to stipulate the exact scenarios in which the attorney in fact is able to make decisions on his or her behalf. If the principal does not make any specifications, then the attorney in fact's purview includes any actions that any non-disabled or non-incapacitated adult may undertake. Such a scenario is referred to as granting general power of attorney. Still, even in such a situation, an attorney in fact is not authorized to:
- Make any changes to the principal's will (or create a will for him or her)
- Modify or revoke a living will declaration for the principal
- Require the principal to act against his or her will (or refrain from any action)
- To act in any way forbidden by the principal while the principal still has his or her full capacity
In fact, the law goes on to state that an attorney in fact must remain in constant communication with the principal, or with the principal's spouse, doctor, attorney or other representatives if direct communication with him or her is not possible.