There may come a time when, because of an accident, dementia, age, travel abroad, or other unforeseen circumstances you will need someone to make important decisions for you. By planning in advance and executing a power of attorney, you can ensure the person making those decisions has your best interest at heart.
So, what is a power of attorney? It is a legal document that you (the “principal”) can give another person (the “agent” or “attorney in fact”) the power to take certain actions and make certain decisions on your behalf. There are several types of powers of attorneys. A general power of attorney is the broadest and gives the agent authority over a wide range of matters. A special power of attorney may limit the agent’s authority to specific transactions, matters, or time period. A durable power of attorney generally provides the agent’s authority only begins upon execution of the power of attorney, or is conditioned upon if and when you become mentally or physically disabled or incapacitated. There is also a medical power of attorney, which if you become unable to make your own medical decisions then the agent will have authority to make those decisions for you.
A power of attorney can also be tailored in scope to cover specific transactions involving real and personal property, retirement plans, estate planning, insurance, annuities, stocks and bonds, commodities and options, and other business or personal matters. Likewise, it can be tailored to a specific time period and designate when your agent’s powers go in effect—whether immediately, or only when you are no longer able to make decisions because of a lack of capacity, or disability.
That said, selecting an agent is a serious matter and should only be left to someone you trust to represent your best interests. But, in the event you change your mind, you can cancel or revoke the power of attorney at any time so long as you are still of sound mind.
Without a power of attorney, if you become unable to make financial, medical, or personal decisions, then family members will not be able to step up to assume the responsibility without requesting legal action. In such a situation, a court appointed guardianship may be the only option, but this can be costly and burdensome. By planning in advance and executing a power of attorney you can be sure your financial and personal affairs will remain in order no matter the circumstances.
The legal information in this blog entry is not intended to be a substitute for seeking personalized legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Further, nothing contained in this article is intended to create an attorney-client relationship with any reader. This article and website are made available by Waldron & Schneider for educational purposes only and to give basic information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this website you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and Waldron & Schneider. The article and website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state. For more information or questions you can contact us and one of our attorneys will be in touch soon.