A power of attorney is a legal document which allows you to appoint another person to act as your agent to manage your health, property, financial and other affairs. A power of attorney can begin immediately or go into effect at some time in the future such as if you become incapacitated and can no longer make decisions over your affairs.
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A power of attorney allows your spouse, a parent, or another competent person to act for you in your behalf. They are required in certain situations when a person is unable to act on their own behalf, such as being disabled or away on military service or other duties. The main purpose of a power of attorney is to appoint someone to make decisions, sign documents, and carry out other important acts when you are unable.
The person granting the power to act is called the principal. The person who receives authorization to act on another’s behalf is called the attorney-in-fact or agent. There are different types of powers of attorney. A “durable” power of attorney stays valid even if you become unable to handle your own affairs (incapacitated). If you don’t specify that you want your power of attorney to be durable, it will automatically end if you later become incapacitated. A general power of attorney gives the person you choose the power to manage your assets and financial affairs while you are alive A limited power of attorney allows the principal to give only specific powers to the agent. The limited power of attorney is used to allow the agent to handle specific matters when the principal is unavailable or unable to do so. Both general and limited powers of attorney may be for a fixed period and can be revoked by you at any time providing you still have the legal capacity to do so. A power of attorney ceases when you die.
Disability can strike any of us at any time. If a person becomes incapacitated and failed to appoint an attorney-in-fact, then no person may sign deeds, make gifts, or make other decisions without court intervention. A power of attorney may be needed to access joint accounts and conduct other transactions. Without a power of attorney, the spouse, parent or other interested party must petition the appropriate court to be appointed as guardian of the incapacitated person. This process usually costs between $2,500.00 and $5,000.00. By signing a durable power of attorney prior to incapacity, a guardianship proceeding can usually be avoided and the attorney-in-fact can usually act on behalf of the incapacitated person in all regards.
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