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Creating a durable power of attorney in New Jersey - when and why?

In the event that something like Alzheimer's disease occurs to you and you are unable to act adequately on your own behalf, do you have the protections in place to safeguard your desires for your New Jersey estate and your affairs? If not, you should seek to create a durable power of attorney to avoid having the courts appoint a guardian on your behalf.

We never plan for something like Alzheimer's or any other incapacitating disease to strike us, which is why planning ahead by creating a durable power of attorney is so important. There are signs we can look for in order to detect serious memory problems early, but by the time we are noticing these in ourselves or others, the time to take legal preparatory actions may be too late.

While the standard power of attorney grants relatives, friends, or the bank the ability to act on your behalf in certain instances, this power becomes null and void should you for some reason become incompetent. The durable power of attorney protects against this unimaginable occurrence and it is out of this necessity that the New Jersey legislature created the durable power of attorney.

Even if you own everything "jointly" with a spouse, there are some things that a spouse will not be able to do should one of you become incapacitated. These include but are not limited to selling jointly owned stock or your jointly owned home. These would require both signatures and without a durable power of attorney document, lengthy time in court and expensive legal fees would be required to perform such functions on behalf of the one who is incapacitated. Ultimately, you both should create a durable power of attorney in the event that either one or both of you become incapacitated.

Incapacity in any form such as Alzheimer's is never something we hope for, but it is something we can plan for. Don't let a judge decide who is best to meet your particular needs and care for you during incapacity, decide for yourself. With the help of an experienced attorney, you can set up the durable power of attorney to best fit your situation and achieve your goals should the unthinkable happen.

Source: The New York Times, "Answers about Alzheimer's, Part 1," The New York Times," Nov. 14, 2012

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