Planning for the future can feel frustrating, uncomfortable, and intimidating, so let us help take the guesswork out of it.  If you’ve wondering or worried if you need a power of attorney (“POA”) or what a power of attorney does, this legal guide will help explain it. If you need help with estate planning or just have a question, do not hesitate to contact us for an initial consultation (don’t worry—it’s free).

What Does a Power of Attorney Do?

A power of attorney is a legal document that lets someone else act as your legal agent, essentially stepping into your shoes with all of the same effect and authority as if you did it yourself.  However, a power of attorney does not always specify what you want your agent to do so you have to trust your agent’s decision-making.  

What Kind of Things Can Someone with a Power of Attorney Do on Your Behalf?

  • Buy or sell vehicles or personal property

  • Buy or sell real estate

  • Deposit or withdraw money from bank accounts

  • Enter into contracts or rental agreements

  • Cash or deposit checks

  • Access financial documents, records, and accounts

  • Admit your child to the hospital for medical treatment

What Types of Powers of Attorney Are Available?

  1. General Power of Attorney: this allows the person you designate to do anything and everything that you could legally do. There are generally no limits to a General Power of Attorney (with only a few exceptions).

  2. Special (or Limited) Power of Attorney: this allows the person you designate to only do the tasks that you specifically identify in the agreement.

  3. “Durable” Power of Attorney: this allows the person you designate to keep their legal status and powers to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated or unable to handle matters on your own. “Nondurable” powers of attorney will end if you ever become too sick or injured to be able to speak for yourself.

Why Do I Need a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney lets someone you trust help you when you cannot do it yourself. Imagine if you are suddenly too sick or injured to be able to speak for yourself. If you have a power of attorney in place, your agent could continue to pay your rent and hills, collect your income and cash your checks, and continue to run your day-to-day life so you don’t fall behind. If you don’t have a power of attorney in those circumstances, your family will have to go to the Court for a “guardianship proceeding” (when they ask the court to become your guardian), which is expensive and time-consuming.

When Should You Get a Lawyer to Help?

Though you can find fill-in-the-blank power of attorney documents online, they are not a good substitute for a power of attorney that is drafted to your specific needs. A power of attorney must contain specific language and meet certain requirements or it could be rejected by banks and other organizations that you need your agent to deal with. Our experienced wills and trusts lawyers are ready to help.

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