A Power of Attorney is a document in which the “Principal” gives powers, duties, and responsibilities to the “Agent” who acts for the Principal under certain circumstances. The Power may be over health matters (a Health Care Durable Power of Attorney – also known as a Health Care Proxy or Advance Health Care Directive in some states) or financial matters (a General Durable Power of Attorney).
I often get calls from family members and loved ones saying they “need to get a power of attorney” over their mom, dad, sibling, relative or other loved one because they can no longer handle their affairs. Unfortunately, at this point it is usually too late. A power of attorney is a power by the power holder (Principal) given to the agent acting on the Principal’s behalf. It is a right that is given not gotten. Therefore, when someone needs to “get” power of attorney over another person and that person no longer has capacity, you are likely looking at obtaining a conservatorship and guardianship which is a much more complicated court process.
Not all Power of Attorney documents are created the same. Some are effective immediately and some require a physician or sometimes two, to certified that the Principal is incapacitated. Some are limited and some are more general. While powers of attorney seem to be pretty straightforward, there are several intricacies and significant decisions to be made based on the principal’s circumstances. It is a powerful document and should not be treated lightly. Please come in to see us to learn more about this document and how we can craft a power of attorney as part of a comprehensive estate plan to meet your specific needs.