What is a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney is a legal document in which you appoint someone other than yourself to handle your property and transact business when you are unable to do so.
Every Estate Plan we prepare includes an individual General Durable Power of Attorney for the Grantor or Grantors of the Trust. A "durable" power of attorney is a document that allows another person to act on your behalf even when you become incapacitated.
This document gives the "attorney-in-fact" you appoint the power to handle your financial assets in a manner which prevents harm to your interests and the interests of your family when you are unable or unavailable to do so yourself.
A Power of Attorney can be as broad or as narrow as you desire. In most cases, our Estate Planning clients want a Power of Attorney which grants their attorney-in-fact (which is often their spouse) very broad powers. If this is not what you want, we can provide you with a more limited power of attorney, especially in a situation which is only temporary (e.g., allowing the attorney-in-fact to sell their car while they are away for a lengthy period of time).
The only things an attorney-in-fact cannot do is (1) execute a living will or last will and testament on your behalf (except when doing so as an amanuensis (i.e., a person who signs on behalf of a disabled person with legal capacity to sign, but who does not have the physical capacity to sign). An attorney-in-fact also cannot represent you in court or write, change or revoke your will.
How do I set up Power of Attorney?
A Power (or Powers) of Attorney are included in every Estate Plan we prepare. Although we can prepare other types of Powers of Attorney when you need them, the Powers of Attorney we prepare as part of your Estate Plan becomes effective only when you are incapacitated or have gone missing for more than 30 days.
If you or someone in your family is going to be unavailable for an extended period of time (e.g., if you or another adult in your family is going to work in a foreign country for a period of time), we can prepare a Power of Attorney which gives you the powers needed to take care of the absent family member
While Power of Attorney documents are available online or at office supply stores, and although you can obtain advice from books and websites, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney before designating Power of Attorney. With future decisions about your personal property on the line, you will want to be confident about what the language does and does not include in these legal forms.
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