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Power of Attorney

Legal documentation that gives an attorney-in-charge or legal agent the authority to act on behalf of the principal

What is Power of Attorney?

Power of Attorney, or POA, is a legal document giving an attorney-in-charge or legal agent the authority to act on behalf of the principal. The attorney in charge possesses broad or limited authority to act on behalf of the principal. The agent can make decisions regarding medical care, financial matters, or property on behalf of the principal.

 

Power of Attorney

 

A power of attorney comes into play in the event that the principal is incapacitated by an illness or disability. The agent may also act on behalf of the principal in case the person is not readily available to sign off on financial or legal transactions.

The power of attorney lapses when the creator dies, revokes it, or when it is invalidated by a court of law. A POA also ends when the creator divorces a spouse charged with a power of attorney or when an agent is not able to continue carrying out outlined duties.

 

Types of Powers of Attorney

 

1. General Power of Attorney

The general power of attorney is a broad mandate that gives an agent a lot of power to handle the affairs of a principal. The agent or the person designated to act on behalf of the principal is charged with handling several tasks. The tasks include buying or disposing of real estate or even entering into contractual relationships on the principal’s behalf.

 

2. Limited or Special Power of Attorney

An individual looking to limit how much the agent can do should choose limited or special power of attorney. Before signing to notarize a limited power of attorney, a person needs to be as detailed as possible about how much the agent should handle. If an individual is not clear what should fall under the special power of attorney, it is best to speak to a legal counsel.

 

3. Durable Power of Attorney

The durable type of power of attorney is only effective during the period a person wished to get someone else act on his or her behalf. A non-durable POA will end the moment it is revoked or when the expiration date specified arrives. However, what will happen in the event the agent becomes debilitated? Will the POA still be applicable?

In such a case, the principal would prefer that the POA remains active even if he or she becomes unable to communicate. For example, if the principal becomes comatose, but would prefer that the spouse be the agent, it can be specified in the form of a durable power of attorney. The POA gives power to the spouse to make decisions even when the principal is comatose.

 

4. Medical or Healthcare Power of Attorney

If the principal becomes very ill, he or she reserves the right to decide the quality of care preferred. Medical or health care POA authorizes the agent to make decisions on behalf of the principal in case of a life-threatening illness. Most health POAs fall under the durable kind because they take into consideration the fact that the principal may be too sick to make their own decisions.

In all the instances above, the principal should speak to a counsel before choosing an agent. In addition, it is best for the principal to get the counsel to walk him or her through every step of notarizing a power of attorney in order to understand what should go into the document.

 

Durable Power of Attorney

 

How Power of Attorney Works

The principal can either download or buy POA templates. In the event the template is acquired through either one of the two methods, the principal should ensure they belong to the state of residence. POA documents are very important, and the principal should not assume that the documents acquired are of the correct kind. Verification of the POA documents is necessary before the POA process can begin.

The best way for a principal to start the process is by finding a family law counsel in their state of residence. If the associated legal fees are way beyond what the principal can manage, there is the option of visiting a legal services office. Alternatively, the principal can go to the Legal Services Corporation website and communicate with a legal aide. Principals who are eligible will be attended for free.

In many states, it is mandatory to get the principal’s signature notarized. In some cases, the witness’s signature must also be notarized. In addition, there are some legal provisos that are not generally applicable. For example, there is no standardized POA principal form.

Procedures and laws vary based on the principal’s residence. While the durable POA is widely accepted, there are powers the principal cannot delegate, such as amending or making a will, contracting a marriage, or casting a vote.

 

Summary

A power of attorney (POA) is an authority imposed on an agent by the principal allowing the said agent to make decisions on his/her behalf. The agent can receive limited or absolute authority to act on the principal’s behalf on decisions relating to health, property, or finances. A POA is common when a person is incapacitated and unable to make their own decisions.

 

Additional Resources

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