A Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you to give another person the authority to act on your behalf according to your instructions. This document can go by many names and serve many purposes. But if anything were to happen to you, it’s imperative you have a durable healthcare and financial power of attorney in place to ensure decisions are carried out according to your wishes.

If you already created your power of attorney, you didn’t leave the security of your future to chance. But if you now reside in a new state, don’t leave it to chance that its validity could be questioned when you finally need it. If this applies to you, it’s a good idea to update your documents.

What if my new state’s laws accept its validity?

Every state has its own legal requirements for power of attorney which could create some legal gray areas. Even if your new state of residence has a reciprocity law that honors a legally created power of attorney from another state, there could be a caveat. It’s possible your state will only accept its validity to the extent that the document complies with its own state laws.

If a state requires the signature of two witnesses and you only have one, there could be a problem. If a state only allows one agent to act and you have two agents acting jointly, there could be a problem. If a state doesn’t allow certain powers to transfer over, it could limit what your agent can and cannot do. Even a medical provider who is unfamiliar with the wording of your healthcare document could delay or deny desired treatment.

Although your documents could be technically valid in your new state, they still may not be accepted by the financial institutions or medical providers you use. With fraud and elder abuse on the rise, these institutions will question anything that looks unfamiliar. They will not be held liable for honoring a document that could have been forged, coerced, or rescinded. Unfortunately, out-of-state powers of attorney could trigger this alarm of suspicion.

What if I split my time between two states?

For those who split their time between two residences during the year, there may be a question of whether it’s best to prepare two documents – a power of attorney for each state. In order to do this legally, it’s wise to meet with an estate planning attorney familiar with the state laws and can ensure both documents are prepared correctly.  If not, in some cases, the first document could be revoked as soon as you sign the second one.

When was the last time I updated my documents?

Whether you’ve moved or not, it’s always a good idea to periodically review your power of attorney and other legal documents. It could be you have a listed agent who is deceased or no longer in the picture. (Do you really want your ex making medical decisions for you?) Maybe your health is declining and a nursing home could be in your future. Without the authority to do Medicaid planning on your behalf, your agent can’t help you qualify for this financial assistance.

The best advice? Meet with an experienced estate planning attorney who knows your state’s requirements so you never have to question whether those legal gray areas will stand in the way of your protection.