A Power of Attorney is a document that authorizes someone to
make decisions on your behalf with respect to finances, property, and medical
care and related matters. The person
executing the POA is known as the "principal." The person named in the POA to act on behalf
of the principal is known as the "attorney-in-fact." A POA is an important document for everyone
If a person does not
have a POA and is unable to make decisions, the only alternative is a
conservatorship, which involves a formal proceeding before a court. A conservatorship is much more costly and
involved than a POA.
There are two main types of powers of attorney that
can be used for different purposes.
Before executing these crucial documents it is important to understand
Generally speaking, a POA can be quite broad in scope,
authorizing numerous acts including but not limited to, the following: dealing with taxing authorities; procuring
insurance; dealing with banks; and making gifts. It is important for a principal to carefully
consider the actions the attorney-in-fact is authorized to make. The attorney-in-fact should act only with the
principal's best interests in mind.
Also, the POA should contain the appropriate language to make it
"durable" so the POA survives the incapacity of the principal. If a POA is not durable then it becomes
ineffective at the principal's incapacity.
Alternatively, a POA can be limited in scope. In fact, some POA documents are limited for
one-time transactions, such as the authorization to sign a title as part of the
purchase of a motor vehicle or the authorization to complete a real estate
Given the current state of the law, the majority of
POAs are effective immediately. That
means that upon signing of the POA the attorney-in-fact is authorized to act on
behalf of the principal. A POA can be
"springing," meaning that it takes effect only if the principal is
deemed to be incompetent by a licensed physician.
Each of us has the right to make our own decisions with
respect to our health care. However,
what happens when we are not able to speak for ourselves? This situation can be addressed by a Health
Care Power of Attorney, which is a document that allows someone that we
nominate to make health care decisions for us.
Through the Health Care Power of Attorney, the principal can authorize
the attorney-in-fact to make numerous decisions for the principal, including,
but not limited to, choices with respect to the scope of treatment and the
handling of the body after the death of the principal.