What is a Power of Attorney?
It is often convenient – or even necessary – to have someone else act for you. You can give someone the legal authority to act for you with a document called a Power of Attorney. If you give a Power of Attorney, you are called the principal, and the person you give it to is called the agent or the attorney-in-fact.
A paper giving a Power of Attorney should be clear and understandable. It should give only those powers you want to give. The powers given may be very limited or very broad.
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Power of Attorney Types
An Ordinary Power of Attorney is commonly used for medical purposes and is only valid as long as the principal is capable of acting for him or herself and will end automatically when the principal becomes mentally incapacitated or dies.
A Durable Power of Attorney is commonly used for financial purposes and remains in force even after the principal later becomes mentally incapacitated and ends automatically when the principal dies or is revoked by notifying your Attorney-in-fact in writing.
Ordinary Power of Attorney
Durable Power of Attorney
General Power of Attorney
Specific Power of Attorney
Springing Power of Attorney – A Springing Power of Attorney allows you to choose when your Power of Attorney will come into effect. Otherwise, it will come into effect once you sign it.
What is a Power of Attorney (POA)?
A Power of Attorney (POA) is a document that allows one person to appoint another person to act on their behalf concerning finance, real estate, business, and more.
Within a Power of Attorney, if you are the one granting authority to a representative, you are called the principal. The personal representative you appoint is called the attorney-in-fact (also known as the agent or mandatory, depending on your state).
What kinds of things may I authorize an agent to do?
Many things that people do may be done through agents. You may authorize an agent to:
- buy or sell things for you;
- apply for public benefits (such as Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security) for you;
- manage your business;
- collect your debts;
- invest your money;
- cash your checks;
- manage your financial matters generally; or
- sue on your behalf.
You must specify in the Power of Attorney document what powers you are giving to your agent and when those powers are to take effect.
Last Will and Testament
A Last Will and Testament is a legal document you can use to control the distribution of your estate and protect your loved ones after you pass away.
The purpose of a Last Will is to leave clear instructions on how to pass on your property and finances to family members and friends. This accelerates the probate process, reduces confusion for the executor of your estate, and makes your final wishes known.
- Choose an executor
- Plan inheritances
- Leave specific gifts
- Address remaining debts
- Appoint a guardian for any minor children
- Appoint a caretaker for any pets
A Last Will is important if you wish to control your property, assets, and finances after death. For example, without a Will, you wouldn’t be able to gift property to a non-relative or exclude certain relatives from claiming an inheritance.
A Last Will is especially important for parents with minor children, as it allows you to appoint a legal guardian.
If you die without a valid Will, a court-appointed administrator distributes your estate according to a pre-determined formula (defined in state law). For example, in certain states that an intestate person’s property goes first to their surviving spouse and any children (in varying degrees, dependent on the situation). If you leave no instructions and have no surviving family members, the state may collect your property.
Anyone over the age of 18 should use a Last Will and Testament to help avoid potential disputes or confusion regarding their estate.