A lot of you may have heard of a “Power of Attorney”, also known as “attorney-in-fact”, but perhaps not all of you really know what it is exactly. There are two broad categories of powers of attorney: 1) Property Power of Attorney; and 2) Health Care Power of Attorney. We’ll address the health care power of attorney in a future blog, one that deals with a few separate documents that deal with health care matters. What I want to talk about here is the property power of attorney.
By assigning someone as your power of attorney, you give him or her the ability to make decisions on your behalf. In the case of a property power of attorney, you are giving someone the ability to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf.
The extent of power given to the power of attorney depends almost exclusively on the document itself. The authority can be as expansive or limited as the document allows, with certain exceptions and limitations imposed by law (e.g. one cannot delegate the authority to have another execute a will on his or her behalf). When in doubt, read the thing!
A power of attorney can either be “durable” or not. “Durable” means the power of attorney remains effective upon the incapacity of the “principal” (i.e. the person executing the document). This is an important time for someone to have the authority to act on you behalf, so I would almost always suggest making the power “durable”.
The power of attorney can also be “springing” or “immediate upon execution”. “Springing” means that the authority only arises upon the happening of some event (e.g. deemed incapacitated by two doctors), while “immediate upon execution” means as soon as the principal signs the document, the “agent” (i.e. first person named as power of attorney) has the authority to act on behalf of the principal.
It is really important for ANY person over the age of 18 to have a power of attorney in place. You never know when something terrible might happen, where you’ll need someone who can act on your behalf. Or maybe it is just a matter of convenience. You may travel a lot and need someone to be able to handle your affairs if you are out of the country. Parents, when your children head off to college, even though you may still be paying the bills, your right to legally act on behalf of your child ends when he or she turns 18. You will want a property power of attorney and a health care power of attorney in place.
If you are over 18 years old, then it is never too early to be prepared and to designate the person YOU CHOOSE to be able to act on your behalf on financial and legal matters. You can tailor the document to meet exactly your needs.
If you have specific needs or questions, it’s always best to speak directly with an attorney. Although our firm generally serves the Greater St. Louis metropolitan area, we would love to help you with any Estate Planning or Elder Law needs.
Even if you are outside of the Greater St. Louis area, feel free to call our office at 314-966-8077 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If we cannot help you ourselves, we would be happy to refer you to an attorney in your area.
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Attorney at Law
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