Making the decisions about your estate plan can be a daunting task. We are faced with a plethora of uncertainties and questions about our future and what to do about our “stuff.” There are a few documents that a client should consider executing with an attorney to protect their estate. One document called a Power of Attorney, that often complements a Will, can be overlooked by a client.
Understanding the Legal Document
A Power of Attorney typically comes in three fashions: a General Power of Attorney, a Specific Power of Attorney, and a Durable Power of Attorney. The distinctions are subtle, but extremely important. A General Power of Attorney allows a client to give authority to someone else to make decisions on anything that the client herself could make, such as financial and/or property decisions. The client is known as the “Principal” and the person that the client gives the power to is known as the “Agent.” In a very simple way, the Agent acts on behalf of the Principal in certain capacities, such as writing a check or selling a property.
This power, or authority, is only as broad as the Principal wants it to be. The Principal can be very specific with their Power of Attorney, in which the Agent only has the authority to make decisions regarding a very specific piece of property. This is called a Specific Power of Attorney. The Agent only has the authority to sell a specific piece of land, but does not have the general authority to buy or sell another piece of land. The Specific Power of Attorney can allow the Agent to pay only certain bills or particular medical costs.
Whether specific or general, an Agent’s authority is terminated once the Principal becomes incapacitated (physically or mentally unable to authorize powers) or passes. Typically a WIll would pick up where the Power of Attorney terminates. However, a Durable Power of Attorney extends the Agent’s authority when the Principal is incapacitated. The Durable Power of Attorney (the document itself) would illustrate the Agent’s authority. This could allow an agent to pay for medical care through the Principal’s incapacitation, or to pay the rent while the Principal is in the hospital.
Without some documentation of a Power of Attorney or a Durable Power of Attorney can lead to many complicated issues that arise at the wrong time. This document can prevent a battle with a bank when the Agent needs to write a check on behalf of the Principal for the Principal’s doctor’s appointment. This document can prevent
Get Legal Help
Our experienced estate planning attorneys can explain and will draft the Power of Attorney document that is right for you. Our attorneys will review the subtleties and differences between the different types of documents.