Many Dentists Have Wills or Trusts as Part of Their Estate Plan, However, Many Dentists Fail to Consider What Happens if the Dentist Becomes Legally Incompetent

As part of an overall estate plan, dentists should execute a durable power of attorney. A dentist, through a durable power of attorney, can appoint an agent, i.e. a trusted relative or friend, to handle specific health, legal, and financial responsibilities on his behalf. The attorneys at Nardone Limited in Columbus, Ohio can assist dentists and other healthcare professionals in creating and implementing an estate plan, including a durable power of attorney.

A durable power of attorney authorizes the agent to transact business on the dentist’s behalf, including the authority to carry out day-to-day actions, sell stocks or bonds, and handle real estate transactions. Essentially, the agent steps into the dentist’s shoes when the dentist is incompetent to handle transactions himself. The dentist signs the durable power of attorney while the dentist is still competent; however, a durable power of attorney stays in effect if the dentist becomes legally incompetent. Under Ohio law, all powers of attorney are durable, which means the agent may act on the dentist’s behalf even when the dentist becomes legally incompetent, unless the document states otherwise.

When Does an Agent’s Authority Begin and End?

            An agent’s authority begins when the power of attorney states that his authority begins. If the power of attorney is silent on when the agent’s authority begins, then generally the agent can begin acting immediately. On the other hand, an agent’s authority will end: (i) when the power of attorney states that the authority ends; (ii) when the dentist revokes the power of attorney; or (iii) when the dentist dies.

Can a Dentist Change His Power of Attorney Once It Is In Effect?

            Yes, the dentist may change or revoke his power of attorney at any time. We recommend that the dentist sign a written revocation and provide a copy of the written revocation to any banks or financial institutions where the dentist may have an account.

Are there Certain Actions that an Agent Cannot do on the Dentist’s Behalf?

            Yes, under Ohio law, unless the following powers are specifically granted by the dentist, an agent cannot: (i) create a trust for the dentist or make changes to an existing trust; (ii) give away the dentist’s property; (iii) create or change rights of survivorship; (iv) change beneficiary designations; (v) let others act in place of the named agent; or (vi) waive the dentist’s right to a beneficiary of a joint or survivor annuity, including a survivor benefit under a retirement plan. Ohio Revised Code §1337.60.

How Can a Dentist Protest Against Misuse or Premature Use of the Power of Attorney?

To avoid the premature use of a power of attorney, the dentist can simply include language in the power of attorney stating that the power of attorney does not go into effect until the dentist becomes legally incompetent (i.e. one or more attending physicians certify, or potentially a court determines, that the dentist is legally incompetent).To protect against an agent’s misuse of a power of attorney, the dentist may include in the power of attorney that the agent must make full disclosures of all transactions to the beneficiaries named under the dentist’s will or trust. The dentist may also require two signatures (i.e. the agent and the alternate agent) for any transaction involving more than a certain dollar amount. By requiring two signatures for certain transactions, the dentist is effectively putting in place an accountability system to ensure that the agent handles large transactions appropriately and in the best interests of all parties involved.

Ultimately, a power of attorney is an important part of a dentist’s estate plan. Further, a power of attorney can provide a dentist and his family with peace of mind, as long as the power of attorney is handled with the proper planning.

If you would like more information on preparing your power of attorney or estate plan, or any of our other dental practice services, please contact Nardone Limited today.