What is “Power of Attorney”

Melissa DossWills

Maintaining our ability to make sound decisions is something we would all like to think we’ll be able to do forever. The truth however is that their are numerous situations where it would be helpful to have somebody there to make decisions for us that are in our best interest. For instance, if you are out of the country, incapacitated, hospitalized, etc., Power of Attorney makes it possible for somebody to make important decisions on your behalf.

Here are some things you should know about Power of Attorney.

  1. What is it? Power of Attorney is a legal document that specifies the powers you give to your attorney-in-fact (or “the person acting on your behalf”). Those powers can be very limited or very broad in scope. For example, if you are selling your house, but unable to attend the closing, you can give someone the power just to sign the deed in your absence.  Most durable powers of attorney, however, give your attorney-in-fact the power to do almost anything you could do.
  2. Who should you give it to? Your “Agent” (or person you have chosen to act on your behalf) can be anybody you trust or even multiple people. You should actually always have a secondary agent in the event your primary agent is unable to fulfill their duties.
  3. What if my agent doesn’t act in my best interest? If you believe your agent is stealing from you or is simply no longer needed, you can revoke the power of attorney. You should always contact your banks and other financial institutions immediately after those powers are revoked.
  4. When does Power of Attorney begin? It begins as soon as the document is signed and notarized in front of witnesses unless it is specifically stated in the document. For instance, if you only want your agent to act on your behalf if you are physically unable, such as in a come, then that should be specifically stated.
  5. What does “Durable” mean? A Durable Power of Attorney means that the authority will continue even if the principal becomes mentally incapacitated.

Power of Attorney is something that goes hand-in-hand with your will and last testament. The power of attorney provides protections during your lifetime, while the will provides protections after your death. Together they provide an ongoing umbrella of protection for your assets.