If I Have Power Of Attorney What Can I Do – A power of attorney is essential in the event that you are incapacitated or not physically present to make decisions on your own behalf. Learn more in our in-depth guide.
A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legally binding document that allows you to appoint someone to manage your property, medical or financial affairs. Although it may be uncomfortable to think about needing it, a POA is an important part of your estate plan.
If I Have Power Of Attorney What Can I Do
A POA is typically used if you are unable to manage your affairs. Each type gives your actual attorney—the person who will make decisions for you—a different level of control. Some POAs come into effect immediately after they are signed, and others don’t come into effect until you are incapacitated.
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In this article, we will examine the role of an attorney-in-fact and what authority the POA provides. We’ll also cover the different types of POAs and highlight four tips for creating them.
The POA actually gives the attorney (also known as the agent) the power to make decisions about your affairs. The type of POA you create dictates what matters you give authority over.
A Power of Attorney takes effect at different times depending on which POA you choose. Regardless of the type, any POA becomes void when the person it represents dies. A last will or living trust sets out instructions for managing assets and affairs after death.
The agent or attorney-in-fact is a fiduciary. This means they are responsible for managing some or all of another person’s affairs. The fiduciary must act responsibly and practically and in a manner that is fair to the person whose affairs they look after. Anyone who violates these duties may face criminal charges or be held liable in a civil lawsuit.
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No power of attorney document is legally binding until it is signed and executed according to the laws of your state. No agent can make decisions on your behalf until the POA document takes effect. You also need to use common sense when appointing an agent. You can see more about creating a power of attorney in the infographic below.
Any terms you feel need clarification can be outlined in your POA document. This is why having the help of a lawyer can simplify the process of appointing a representative to hold power of attorney.
To make your POA legally binding, you must sign and execute your document according to the laws of your state. This usually involves signing in front of witnesses or having it notarized. Consider giving your agent a copy or telling them where to find a copy if needed.
An attorney-in-fact is someone you have appointed to manage your affairs through the power of attorney document. This person is an agent who acts on your behalf, also called an administrator.
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A lawyer does not have to be someone who can practice law. That said, enlisting the help of an attorney to help you draft a POA and navigate estate planning can make the process less stressful for you and your loved ones. Although it is not necessary to involve a lawyer, you should choose an agent who is:
When appointing your lawyer, it is important to find someone you know and trust. This person will act on your behalf to make crucial decisions about your well-being, finances, assets or other matters. Your lawyer can actually be anyone you choose, so choosing one who will act in your best interest can give you extra peace of mind.
There are several types of POA and each serves a different purpose. It may be important that the same person is responsible for all of your affairs, or you may want the person who handles your finances to be different from the person who handles your health care decisions. The differences also extend to when you want the POA to take effect. Here are some of the options (and more information about them in the next section):
Each type of POA has its advantages, so it’s important to understand all of your options before making a decision.
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If you are incapacitated due to illness or a sudden accident, a durable power of attorney document allows your attorney to continue to act in your best interests. This is simply a POA with a durable provision to retain the current power of attorney.
You can specify in your POA document whether you want your agent to have authority when the document is signed or when a doctor declares you incapacitated. You can also indicate your preference for which doctor should have this authority to ensure they are a doctor whose opinion you trust.
As the title suggests, a springing POA differs from an immediately effective POA, which takes effect as soon as you sign it.
A major disadvantage of a jumping POA is the clarity around a declaration of physical or mental unfitness. For example, if you are diagnosed with incipient dementia and your ability to make sound decisions is called into question, it may be difficult to prove that you are medically incompetent.
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Generally POA is an effective tool if you will be out of the country and need someone to handle certain matters or when you are physically or mentally unable to manage your affairs. A general POA is often included in an estate plan to ensure that someone can handle financial matters.
This POA document, also known as a special power of attorney, restricts the agent to a certain number of conditions. Signing a special power of attorney can specify which powers a proxy can exercise. You can use this POA if you are unable to handle certain affairs due to other commitments or health reasons.
Selling property (personal and real), managing real estate, collecting debts and handling business transactions are some common matters specified in a special POA document.
The type of POA you need is a personal decision you may want to bring up when you talk about estate planning with your family. Planning for end-of-life decisions allows you to spend more time focusing on the people and activities you love.
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A medical power of attorney, also called a durable health power of attorney, gives your agent the authority to make medical decisions for you. Your agent will have this power if you are unconscious, mentally incompetent or otherwise unable to make decisions on your own.
Although not the same as a living will, many states allow you to include your preference to be kept on life support in a medical POA. Some states allow you to combine parts of the health care POA and the living will into an advanced health care directive.
This POA allows a fiduciary to carry out your financial affairs when you are not around. This may be a non-durable POA that covers situations where you cannot be present, such as an extended period abroad. It can also be a durable financial POA covering cases where you are incapacitated or mentally incompetent and therefore unable to make sound financial decisions for yourself.
As with powers of attorney that apply to civilians, military powers of attorney vary in their coverage, and what authority you provide is entirely up to you. Because of the travel often involved in military roles, having a power of attorney for a military spouse can be beneficial in many everyday situations, such as accessing your bank account, registering a car, or filing taxes.
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The unpredictability of life during deployment can mean sudden changes in your plans and your ability to make decisions on your behalf, whether due to unavailability, injury or incapacity. Having a power of attorney in place is a good idea for anyone in the military, but it can be critical for those deployed.
Once you have decided which power of attorney to use, you need to decide who your agent will be. It is important to remember that any lawyer is in fact responsible for your interests and must advocate on your behalf to the best of his ability. A few steps can simplify the process of delegating power of attorney.
You may appoint multiple attorneys-in-fact to represent your interests, and you should decide whether these agents will act jointly or separately when making decisions. Multiple agents may be beneficial if your medical or financial affairs are complex. However, having multiple agents can introduce scheduling conflicts into the process and can delay important decisions.
Similarly, only one agent has limitations. You should appoint a backup agent who can step in if the original agent is suddenly unable to perform their duties.
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Trust is key when choosing an attorney for your power of attorney. Whether the agent is a friend, a relative, an organization or a lawyer, you need someone who will look after your interests, respect your wishes and not abuse the powers they have been given.
Should you, a friend or relative suspect wrongdoing by your agent, report the suspected abuse to a law enforcement agency and consult an attorney.
It is essential for an agent to keep accurate records of all transactions carried out on your behalf and to provide you with periodic updates to keep you informed. If you cannot review these updates, ask your agent to provide an account to a third party you approve.
You can appoint multiple agents. You should decide whether these agents should act together or separately when making decisions. Several agents may
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