What is a power of attorney?

A Power of Attorney is a document that gives someone else the legal power to do certain things for you. That person is called the attorney in fact or agent. The person who signs a power of attorney making someone else their agent is called the principal. A person does not have to be a lawyer to be someone’s attorney in fact. A power of attorney can be for a special, general or limited purpose. You must be an adult and of sound mind to give another person power of attorney.  In other words, you have to be at least eighteen years old, and you have to understand what you are doing at the time you sign the power of attorney.

When should I get a power of attorney?

A Power of Attorney can be very helpful to you and your family.  If you were unable to handle your own affairs as a result of illness, accident, or even absence, the Power of Attorney gives your agent the power to handle your affairs as you would handle them yourself.  You might not be able to execute a Power of Attorney at a time when you are disabled due to an accident. If you are unable to handle your own affairs and have no Power of Attorney, your spouse or family may have to petition the Probate Court to appoint a Conservator of the Estate (COE) for you. The Conservator would have to post bond, file an inventory, and prepare accountings.  Sometimes this is unavoidable.  However, most people prefer to avoid the expense of probate court by naming their own agent and signing a Power of Attorney. Only you can decide when the time is right to prepare a power of attorney. However, it is highly suggested to do so before reaching your elderly years.

What can they do?

A durable power of attorney provides all of the following powers unless specifically specified that you do not wish for your agent to be granted a specific power. The powers include,

Real property transactions;
Tangible personal property transactions;
Stock and bond transactions;
Commodity and option transactions;
Banking and other financial institution transactions;
Business operating transactions;
Insurance and annuity transactions (provided that my agent shall specifically not have the power to designate or change the beneficiary of any annuity or contract of insurance on my life);
Estate, trust and other beneficiary transactions;
Claims and litigation;
Personal and family maintenance;
Benefits from social security, Medicare, Medicaid, or other governmental programs or civil or military service;
Retirement plan transactions (provided that my agent shall specifically not have the power to designate or change the beneficiary of any of my retirement plans or IRAs);
Tax matters;
Digital assets and the content of an electronic communication;

Who should be my power of attorney?

A person you would trust with your life. Choose this person very carefully. That person can act in your name, as if you were there. In most cases, you are responsible for anything your agent does in your name.  Choose someone who is honest and trustworthy. This is especially important if you are signing a general durable power of attorney because of the powers that you give to another person, it is highly recommended that you talk to a lawyer before signing any power of attorney.

What kind of power should I give my POA?

This is a question that you must be comfortable with the person you are granting powers to on your behalf. I strongly urge you to seek advice from an Attorney before providing any powers to any agent so that you are aware of the legal ramifications that stem from granting people powers to act on your behalf.

Will my power of attorney expire?

Yes. There are five instances when a power of attorney ends. It can end if it has an ending date specified within the document or it can end when you become incapacitated if the power of attorney is not a durable one. The Power of attorney can end when you revoke it; can end when a guardian of the estate is appointed for you; or it ends when you pass away.