The power of attorney is a document in which one person (called “the principal”) gives another person (called “the attorney in fact”) legal authority to act on his or her behalf.
A general power of attorney is basically a document by which you appoint another adult to act for you in a transaction, or a series of transactions. It is normally used to allow someone to handle your financial affairs for a defined period of time, for instance if you can’t be reached while you’re on an extended vacation.
A durable power of attorney is designed for a different purpose. It is a document in which you authorize an adult of your choice to make necessary financial or medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. The point of a durable power of attorney is that it allows you to establish in advance a method to accomplish this without the necessity of a court guardianship or conservatorship proceeding if you become incapacitated.
Creating a durable power of attorney is good planning. If you became incapacitated due to old age or a car accident you will have chosen in advance who can handle your medical, legal and financial decisions. You can appoint one person to handle both financial and health decisions for you or you can split these functions by appointing different individuals to manage your finances and make health care decisions. A durable power of attorney also allows you to tell the person who you appoint to act for you how to make certain important decisions. For example, you can specify in your durable power of attorney for health care precisely what you want done regarding the use, or non-use, of life support systems. Or, you can create a durable power of attorney giving the person you designate complete power over your financial affairs with the exception of the right to sell your house.
If you fail to establish a durable power of attorney and you become incapacitated, your family or friend will be put through considerable trouble and expense to establish a guardianship or conservatorship for you through a lengthy court process. Having your power of attorney in place is a powerful tool to avoid any court proceeding. It puts you in control over who will manage your financial affairs or health care decisions.
At About Justice your powers of attorney will be prepared quickly and accurately. As a part of our Living Trust package these documents are included. They can also be included with your Last Will and Testament document.