choosing an agent for your poa

Power of Attorney Basics – Getting Started

As our parents age, we start to question what will happen if they lose the ability to make health or financial decisions on their own.  This leads to a discussion of what we can do to help them if this situation occurs.  Part of the solution may include setting up a power of attorney (POA).

A power of attorney, in simple terms, is a legally binding document authorizing an “Attorney-in-Fact” (sometimes referred to as an “Agent”) to make decisions on behalf of another person (Principal), such as a parent or loved one.  If the Attorney-in-Fact is unable or unwilling to act on behalf of the Principal, the POA should also appoint successors.

*This blog is for educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. The use of the Paths Law Firm website does not constitute a client-lawyer relationship.

What Kind of Power of Attorney Do I Need?

For estate planning purposes, a Power of Attorney is created in the event of incapacitation.  This is most often accomplished by working with a qualified elder law attorney to define the responsibilities upon which the Attorney-in-Fact can act.  Two primary types of power of attorney considered are for medical, or health care, matters and the other is for financial or general issues.  The medical power of attorney gives an Attorney-in-Fact the ability to make medical decisions for the Principal.  This is often referred to as an Advanced Healthcare Directive.  The second type of POA, referred to as a financial power of attorney or general power of attorney, grants an Attorney-in-Fact the ability to make financial or general, non-health related, decisions for the Principal. 

If both types of power of attorney are created, the same Attorney-in-Fact may be appointed to serve for both the health care power of attorney as well as the financial power of attorney.  However, some family situations are better resolved when the Attorney-in-Facts are different.  

planning for incapacity poa

POA Actions: Immediate Action vs Springing

The general power of attorney may be effective immediately upon signing, for a period of time, or effective only upon an event, such as a doctor providing the opinion such is needed.  When the POA is immediately effective, authority is granted to the Attorney-in-Fact regardless of the Principal’s ability to make decisions on their own.  When effective upon Incapacity, it is referred to as a “springing power of attorney.”

To get a clear understanding of a POA immediately effective versus one which the powers are springing, below are examples of each:

  • Immediate Power: Marge is 85 years old, declining in cognition the past few years and Mary, her daughter, has been helping more and more lately.  Frankly, Marge will be relieved to relinquish the sole authority in dealing with these matters on a frequent basis and it will just be much easier and efficient for Mary to handle the financial affairs individually.    
  • Springing Power: Andrew is working with an estate planning attorney.  As part of the estate plan, Andrew has a power of attorney created.  He has decided his wife, Stephanie, should act on his behalf as the Attorney-in-Fact if he becomes incapacitated someday.  As a successor Attorney-in-Fact to Stephanie, Andrew has assigned his son, Vincent.   Because the POA is set up as “springing”, Stephanie can only act if Andrew becomes unable to handle his affairs through incapacity.  Since Stephanie likely nominated Andrew as her first Attorney-in-Fact, at least one successor is needed since once the first spouse becomes incapacitated, they can no longer act as the Attorney-in-Fact for the second spouse. 
power of attorney

Durable Power of Attorney vs. Nondurable

A nondurable POA has the power to act on your behalf only if you are of a sound mind.  This POA is for a specific purpose, such as when one spouse primarily works out of town and the other spouse needs to act on his behalf to sell a house, vehicle, or otherwise.   For the purposes of estate planning, in which you are planning for future incapacity or death, the powers of attorney are typically “durable”.  This means the Attorney-in-Fact has the power to act on your behalf regardless of your soundness of mind.  

Choosing an Agent for Your POA

When a power of attorney is created, choosing the Attorney-in-Fact is a crucial step.  This is a significant decision for both the person creating the power of attorney as well as the Attorney-in-Fact selected.  The Attorney-in-Fact should be someone you implicitly trust to act in your best interest to carry out your wishes.  It is important to include detailed instructions to make the Attorney-in-Fact’s job as easy as possible.  In the case of finances, it is important to take into consideration the Attorney-in-Fact’s financial knowledge or including a financial advisor to assist with financial decisions.

The decision of choosing an Attorney-in-Fact can be a difficult family conversation.  This is especially true if the right person to handle your affairs is not a family member.  The other family member’s emotions can sometimes hinder the decision-making process.  An estate planning attorney can help facilitate and counsel regarding this difficult conversation to help limit family conflict. 

choosing an agent for your poa

Executing a Power of Attorney

Proper execution of a POA only requires a notary public to witness the signature.  If there are responsibilities related to real estate transactions, the legal documents should be recorded with the counties’ Recorder of Deeds.  The decision to execute a durable power of attorney in the state of Missouri is very personal.  However, the alternative could end up being costly and lengthy litigation in probate court.  Sometimes witnesses are used for posterity, but actually two witnesses are only needed when a living will regarding end-of-life decisions is included.

Because no one really knows what the future holds regarding incapacity issues, putting a plan together is critical.  Without an estate plan or a POA documenting your wishes, your family could end up in court fighting for the right to make decisions on your behalf.  And, more importantly, by planning you can ensure that your wishes are carried out.  If you or a loved one is ready to get started in planning for the future, contact Paths Elder Law.  Our caring and experienced staff are here to help.

Educational Seminar at Paths Law Firm

Paths Law Firm provides a Free Educational Elder Law Seminar every month to help you plan for your future.

Administrative Assistant

Ryan D. Foley

Ryan Foley at Paths Law

Administrative Assistant

Ryan D. Foley

Ryan graduated from the UMKC School of Law in 2018 and passed the Missouri Bar that year. Prior to law school, Ryan attended the University of Missouri – Columbia where he attained a degree in Business. He is a Kansas City native, growing up in the Northland where he achieved his Eagle Scout rank by doing a project for his high school. During his time in law school, Ryan was introduced to the practice area of Elder Law by one of his professors and has been

Ryan enjoys working with and educating clients to provide advocacy and support during the unfamiliar and often overwhelming probate process. Ryan understands the challenges faced by individuals when faced by the uncertainty and complexity of government systems or even handling a Trust during a time of grief, and he strives to make the process as easy as possible.

Administrative Assistant

Makaylee A. Morelli

administrative assistant at Paths Law

Administrative Assistant

Makaylee A. Morelli

Makaylee is currently working on her bachelor’s in political science and hopes to soon start law school as an aspiring attorney. In her free time, she loves to spend time with her friends and family but most importantly her dogs Taffyta, Tallulah Belle, and Harry. Their favorite thing to do is go on coffee dates and get pup cups.

Attorney

Kathleen E. Overton

Kathleen Overton, attorney at Paths Law

Attorney

Kathleen E. Overton

After starting her career as a disability attorney, Kathleen transitioned into estate planning at a mid-sized regional law firm. Kathleen joined Paths Law Firm in 2021 when she decided to return to a boutique law firm that provides excellent service and quality to clients. Because of her background as a disability attorney, she brings a thorough understanding of public benefits to each client meeting. At Paths Law FIrm, Kathleen focuses on traditional estate planning and business entity formation, providing tailored advice unique to each client’s situation.

Public Benefits Assistant

Tena K. Dooley

Public Benefits Assistant

Amanda D. Martin

I have my Associates in Applied Science and have over 20 years of office management experience. I have two daughters and one grandson.

During my time away from the office I enjoy spending time with my family.  I enjoy almost everything outdoors and my hobbies include fishing and gardening.

PARALEGAL

Sydney R. Morris

Paths Law elder law in Kansas City

PARALEGAL

Sydney

Sydney is currently enrolled at the University of Missouri-Kansas City pursuing an accounting degree and plans to later attend law school.

In her free time, Sydney enjoys spending time with her nephews and volunteering at her local church.

 

CLIENT SERVICES MANAGER

Christy L. Phillips

client service manager at Paths Law

CLIENT SERVICES MANAGER

Christy L. Phillips

Phone: 816-640-8635
Email: [email protected]

Christy has 3 years of experience in Elder Law working for seniors and their families as a Benefits Coordinator processing Medicaid and VA applications. Prior to joining Paths Law Firm Christy worked in the finance industry for over 10 years.

 

Christy’s experience in the finance industry has been extremely beneficial to her role as Benefits Coordinator. There have been many influences that went into her decision to select the field of Elder Law. Christy has a special place in her heart for the elderly and attributes this to her relationship with her grandparents.

When asked why she loves what she does, Christy said that at Paths Elder law, she gets the opportunity to help clients in more ways than one. Her favorite part of her job is getting clients approved for Medicaid or VA benefits as it is a huge relief for them and their loved ones.

Christy was raised in Ogden, Utah, and moved to Independence, MO, when she was ten years old. She has two children that keep her busy and fill her life with joy! Christy’s daughter cheers for Avila University, and her son plays competitive baseball for the Bucks and races BMX locally for the Motorcycle Closeout Team.

When Christy is not working, she enjoys crafting and making homemade gifts for her loved ones and raising her kids to be healthy, happy, and positive humans.

 

Practice Areas

  • Medicaid Benefits
  • VA Benefits

 

Professionalc Memberships and Affiliations

  • Missouri Notary

FINANCIAL MANAGER

René A. Fracassa

Rene A. Fracassa, Paths Law

FINANCIAL MANAGER

René

René has worked along side Rusty for 35 years. Not only is she part of the Paths team, she is also his wife. René spends her time working with the accountant to keep all of the finances in order, as well as general office management.

In addition to helping run the office, she helps manage the family and grandkids, tries to keep everyone fed, and has a passion to teach Bible Studies. Her former career in Event Planning trained her to juggle all the activity. She understands Rusty’s passion to serve people from the first mention of law school. It is a great pleasure for her to be an important part of every area of his life.

 

MARKETING MANAGER

Hilary R. Tichota

Hillary at Paths Law

MARKETING MANAGER

Hilary

Hilary plays a vital role in the daily operations of the office. In addition to her regular office duties, Hilary has a heart of gold.

For more than 5 years, Hilary has operated the front desk at Paths, running the office and catering to clients. Hilary recently moved into the role of Community Relations Coordinator. She has a passion for people and a focus to share our business practices with the community’s seniors, businesses, and clients. She especially has a heart for seniors, showing they are loved through her visits, treats, the “Pen to Pal” program, and volunteering services at various senior living communities. She is a wonderful wife and mother of two. Most activities with seniors involve her great talent for any type of craft.

 

SR. PARALEGAL & OPERATIONS MANAGER

Jennifer A. Bronson

Jennifer, senior paralegal

SR. PARALEGAL & OPERATIONS MANAGER

Jennifer

Jennifer has been in the legal field for over 25 years and considers Paths her second home.

When she’s not running the office or working for our clients, she’s spending time with her first passion – her children.

ATTORNEY

Russell A. Fracassa (Rusty)

attorney at Paths Law elder law

ATTORNEY

Russell A. Fracassa (Rusty)

Phone: 816-640-8635

When asked what he wants to do, his reply was “I just want to sit at the kitchen table and work directly with people.” Rusty enjoys working with clients providing experienced advocacy and supporting them through their unfamiliar and overwhelming situations. Due to all the challenges faced by seniors, it is essential to work with an experienced elder law attorney who has expertise in the law, issues, and concerns affecting seniors and their families.

Rusty brings nearly 30 years legal experience and expertise working for seniors and their families as an elder law attorney in Kansas City and surrounding. Prior to law school, Rusty was a practicing accountant. This provides invaluable experience in his current practice of law. Rusty decided to put his focus on helping the elderly, vulnerable adults, and their families navigate challenging life, end of life, and death events.

Rusty understands the challenges faced by individuals whose capacity is declining and how upsetting the loss of a loved one can be. He understands he may not be able to eliminate his client’s grief from loss, but he strives to provide clients with peace of mind. Rusty works directly with client’s long term care issues, including Medicaid, Veteran’s Benefits, Estate Planning, Asset Protection, and Special Needs Planning.

In 2010, Rusty’s faith and love led him and part of his family to China as Christian missionaries. He and his wife, went permanently, but ended up dedicating 3 years to that ministry. They returned to Missouri to help with grandchildren after a family tragedy and later began anew with Paths Elder Law. The goal is providing compassionate care through legal advocacy.

When Rusty is not practicing law, he enjoys spending time with his family, grandchildren, and excessive eating at local restaurants.

 

Practice Areas

 

  • Wills and Trusts
  • Estate Planning
  • Asset Protection
  • Medicaid Benefits
  • VA Benefits
  • Probate
  • Guardianship and Conservatorships
  • Education

 

BSBA and Master’s in Accounting, Master’s in Inter-Cultural Studies, and Doctorate in Juris Prudence

  • Rockhurst University
  • Liberty University
  • University of Missouri – Kansas City


Admissions to Practice

  • Missouri


Professional Memberships and Affiliations

  • State Bar of Missouri
  • National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (long-time Member)
  • Elder Counsel (Charter and Ongoing Member)
  • Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys (Past Member)
  • Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association
  • Missouri State Bar Committees – Elder Law, Estate Planning, Probate