A Power of Attorney — or “POA” — is a critical legal document that we combine with your Advanced Healthcare Directive and Family Estate Plan. It is an important instrument that is absolutely essential in the event that you become incapacitated — because of injury, old age or infirmity, for example.
What Is Power of Attorney?
The POA meaning, “power of attorney”, refers to the power to make legally binding decisions on behalf of someone (the “principal”) who has appointed them as the “attorney-in-fact”, or “agent”. POAs are most commonly created for financial decisions and health care decisions. How much decision-making power is transferred depends on the type of POA.
The following are a few examples of powers of attorney that can be given:
- “General” power of attorney allows your agent to assist you with legal and health matters before you become incapacitated.
- “Limited” power of attorney allows your agent to assist you with the specific tasks you list or grant with the document; it can be as simple as a single task.
- “Springing” power of attorney only becomes effective AFTER you become incapacitated and you want your agent to assist.
A POA’s legal authority ends when:
- the principal revokes it or dies;
- in the case of a spouse appointed as agent, when the principal and agent end their marriage;
- a court invalidates it; or
- when the appointed agent can no longer carry out the designated responsibilities.
The Durable POA
“Durable” powers of attorney allow your agent to remain in place and continue to act as your agent after you become incapacitated.
The reason a POA — a durable POA in particular — works well with your Advanced Healthcare Directive and Family Estate Plan is that it can list specifics of your wish to be cared for when incapacitated or not competent to make important legal decisions.
Estate Planning Considerations
One of the most important estate planning decisions you will make is who you will name as your attorney-in-fact or agent under a POA. Your attorney-in-fact must be able to carry out legal decisions in a manner that aligns with what you have set out in your power of attorney form. Be certain that you only pick a person you trust when you give this right away. Your agent will have open access to your checkbook, assets, and property at a time when you are presumed incapacitated and cannot mediate for yourself if things go astray. There is also great responsibility in being an agent, so you may not want to burden any particular family member with these concerns.
When picking your agent, look for someone who:
- is a minimum age of eighteen — but some life experience might come in handy
- is trustworthy beyond measure and of good character — no second guessing
- will be loyal to your desires and wishes — even if they conflict with the agent’s personal interests
- exhibits good attention to detail for accounting and reading comprehension
- is willing to take on this role on your behalf
- has some familiarity with the subject area in which they will be making decisions
Appointing Multiple Attorneys-in-Fact/Agents
Some of our clients choose to elect multiple agents in order to limit the capacity that each agent acts. By doing so, each appointed agent is only able to act within the limited capacity of their enumerated tasks. You can elect to appoint an aggressive agent to manage your property and financial issues, for example, while appointing a separate more delicate agent to handle your personal care and medical decisions. You can also consider the different strengths of potential agents. Perhaps someone in the family is an accountant and it would make sense to appoint them as agents for your finances — or one of your relatives is in the medical field and will more easily understand the implications of the various health-related options open to you.Our office has spent years reviewing and preparing Power of Attorneys. These documents are important and not recommended without legal input. Contact us today and let us help you prepare for the future.