Read about the following people and ask yourself “Who needs to sign a Power Of Attorney?”
- Ms. Davis is a single woman, has no economic or medical concerns and runs a successful business
- Ms. Smith who has learned she has a diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Mr. and Mrs. Adams have a house they need to sell but they will be out of the country for six months
- Mr. Hines lives on his own and lacks close family and is scheduled for major surgery in a few weeks
In fact, they all need a Power Of Attorney (POA.) Definition: A Power of Attorney is a document where you can nominate and appoint an organization or a person to manage your affairs if you are unable to do so. There are several types of POA’s and each kind gives the person who is going to make decisions on your behalf a different level of control:
- General Power of Attorney
- Special Power of Attorney
- Health Care Power of Attorney
- Durable Power of Attorney
General Power Of Attorney
A General Power Of Attorney gives a broad range of powers to an organization or person (called an agent or attorney-in-fact) who will act on your behalf. These powers include the following:
- Handling business transactions
- Handling financial transactions
- Claims settlement
- Purchase of life insurance
- Gift giving
- Operating business concerns
- Employing professional help
Special Power Of Attorney
A Special Power Of Attorney is where you decide the powers an agent can exercise on your behalf. Some common matters handled in this situation include:
- Real estate management
- Property selling.
- Handling business transactions
- Debt collection
Health Care Power Of Attorney
A Health Care Power Of Attorney allows an agent to have the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are in a situation where you cannot make your own decisions. For example:
- If you become mentally incompetent
- If you are unconscious
- Your preference for being kept on life support
Note that several states allow you to use a combination of the Health Care Power of Attorney and your living will to constitute an advanced healthcare directive.
Durable Power Of Attorney
A Durable Power Of Attorney can help should you become mentally incompetent due to accident, injury or illness when you have a signed Durable Power Of Attorney in effect. In basic terms, it is a health care Power Of Attorney that includes a durability provision maintaining the current Power Of Attorney in effect. Here are some things you want to include in a Durable Power Of Attorney:
- You may choose and name a specific doctor to make a determination regarding your competency
- State a requirement that two legal physicians agree on your current mental state
Finding A Good Agent
When you are searching for an agent for your Power Of Attorney it is important you can trust them, as you will need them to respect your wishes and values as well as looking out for your best interests. Whether you choose a relative, a friend or an organization, you need to be sure they will not abuse the power you have granted to them.
It is imperative the agent is good at keeping accurate records of all the transactions completed on your behalf. They must also provide you with regular updates so you can stay informed of your situation. If you are in a position where you cannot review the updates, instruct the agent to give an accounting to a third party of your choice.
It is important to realize an agent can only be held legally responsible for intentional misconduct, not when they unwittingly do something incorrectly. This protection forms a part of Power Of Attorney documents with the purpose of encouraging people to accept the responsibilities of becoming an agent. Most of the time, agents perform these services for free and are not financially compensated.
If you or a relative or friend have reason to suspect the agent may be guilty of wrongdoing, consult a lawyer and report the suspected abuse to the appropriate law enforcement in your area.
Can You Have Too Many Agents?
The upside to having multiple agents is they can ensure sensible decisions are made and they act as check and balances against one another. Conversely, the downside is multiple agents can disagree and if the yare busy, schedule clashes may delay the signing of important legal documentation or delay important transactions. Should you decide to appoint a single agent, make sure you have a backup. Just like everyone else, agents can become ill, injured, incapacitated and be unable to fulfill their responsibilities. Naming a successor ensures a smoother transition in these cases.
Planning With A Sound Mind
A Power Of Attorney only has validity when you are mentally competent when you sign it and in most cases not competent when it takes effect. it is a good idea to have a doctor verify in writing if you suspect your mental capacity may be questioned by others. Your agent will still require a written confirmation from a doctor regarding your incompetence so they can do business on your behalf. In some circumstances, a court may even have to decide the level of competency.
Completing A Power Of Attorney
The Power Of Attorney document must be signed and notarized and you should have several certified copies. Businesses and banks will refuse to let your agent act for you unless they have a certified Power Of Attorney copy on file. Attorneys are not needed in the execution of a Power Of Attorney. That said, it is always a good idea to speak with an attorney regarding the powers you are granting to others. They can provide advice on your chosen agent and ensure all your documents meet the designated legal requirements.
Of course, you can revoke a Power of Attorney. All you have to do is notify your agent in writing and retrieve the outstanding copies of your Power Of Attorney. Also let the County Clerk’s office know, (if applicable) as well as financial institutions you deal with the Power Of Attorney your agent once had has been revoked.
At some time it is almost inevitable you will require a Power Of Attorney – so it is vital you develop an understanding now of what a Power Of Attorney us and how you can utilize it to take care of your affairs when you are not in a position to do so.
What Is a Power of Attorney (POA)?” Legalzoom.com, 18 Aug. 2017, www.legalzoom.com/articles/what-is-a-power-of-attorney.
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