What does a Power of Attorney do?
- A power of attorney lets you give someone else the legal right to act for you.
- The power of attorney can cover simple tasks like writing or signing checks.
- It can also involve more complex matters like selling land.
- The power of attorney can be very specific or very general.
- You can limit a power of attorney to one task, like selling a car.
- Or, you can give your agent the power to do almost everything you can now do.
Why should I have a financial Power of Attorney?
- It's good planning.
- If a car accident or some physical or mental disease keeps you from acting for yourself, your agent can handle your finances and pay your bills. No one has to go to court to seek a conservatorship or a guardianship.
How can I get a Power of Attorney?
- You can go to a lawyer. This is the best way to get a power of attorney that fits your needs.
- You can buy a form at an office supply store and try to make it fit. But don't.
- You can find a form on-line. But don't rely on one you find.
- You can borrow one from a friend. But don't.
- By trying to use a "one-size-fits-all" power of attorney, you risk problems you might not recognize.
- If you want a power of attorney to let someone deposit money into a bank account and write checks on the account, go to your bank. Some banks will only honor their own forms for powers of attorney.
Who can be my agent?
- You can give a power of attorney to any adult.
- Your agent does not have to be a lawyer.
- Choose someone you can trust.
- Be sure to have a lawyer draw up the documents.
What types of Powers of Attorney are there?
- A medical power of attorney gives someone the right to make decisions on your health care.
- A financial power of attorney lets someone handle your money and property. To sell your land, the power of attorney must specifically give that right.
- A limited power of attorney lets someone do some specific things for you.
- A general power of attorney lets someone act pretty much like you.
- A durable power of attorney continues even after you become incapacitated. If you do not use the word "durable," a power ends when you become incapacitated.
- A springing power of attorney takes effect when something happens. Usually, it begins when you become incapacitated. You have to be very careful to spell out how someone can tell that the thing has happened, so the power is in effect.
- You can combine them. For example, a limited, durable financial power of attorney would let your agent do specific financial tasks for you when you can't. This might include paying your bills and dealing with your bank.
- A durable medical power of attorney lets your agent make medical decisions for you when you can't make these decisions.
Can I end a Power of Attorney?
- Yes. You can always revoke a power of attorney. This will keep your agent from "taking over" or keeping you from making your own decisions.
- You can revoke a power of attorney by giving written notice to your agent and to some one in charge at any place where you expect the agent would try to use the power. For example, you would want to give written notice to your banks.
Reviewed March 2004
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