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The Power of Attorney

The fourth installment in a regular column reflecting on life as a 'military mom.'

Editor's Note: Betty Jo Hockinson is an Inver Grove Heights resident and a regular columnist on Patch. Her column publishes on the first and third Wednesdays of each month. E-mail her at bjhockinson@comcast.net.

Our son is single, and has no dependents. He plans to give us, his parents, power of
attorney for his financial matters while he is overseas serving with the National Guard in Kuwait.

He has asked us to sell his car and invest the proceeds in the highest-yielding liquid asset we can find (Anybody know of one?). He will leave signed checks for us to use to pay bills while he is away, but we will have authority to sign his checks as well. We'll be able to monitor his bank accounts online, although he will probably be able to monitor them from Kuwait.

Service members have responsibilities that require preparation and advance decisions regarding finances, benefits, legal matters, personal property and loved ones. By having these affairs in order, the soldier can focus on an upcoming deployment without the added stress of unfinished business. It is highly recommended that the service member appoint power of attorney to someone who is trustworthy. A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that gives someone authority to act on behalf of the soldier.

It is not advisable to appoint a general POA, which gives unlimited authority to another person. Typically a soldier will need a POA for financial and health matters, and should limit the authority given with the POA. Service members can receive assistance with legal issues at no charge be making an appointment with the office of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) up to 180 days prior to deployment.

Luke's POA document will also give us authorization to make medical decisions for him, should he become unable to do so.

I am proud to write that Luke has even discussed the unthinkable with us. He told us what he would like to happen in an extraordinary medical situation. I cannot imagine what it would be like to make a life or death decision for my child, but it comforts me to know what he would want.

A power of attorney is a legal document, and remains effective until it is cancelled by
the soldier. The service member should cancel the authority as soon as they can take
over their own affairs again. It is also important for the POA to know that the document expires on the service member’s date of death. The power of attorney is not authorized to handle matters for the deceased soldier. That is why a will may be needed as well, and that is a subject for another day.

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