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Power of Attorney

Definition - What does Power of Attorney mean?

Power of attorney is a written, legal document which confers the authority to another person to act on your behalf or that of a principal. Power of attorneys can grant partial or full authority or limited authority under specific conditions.

Power of attorney can be revoked at any time, but generally ends when the principal is incompetent or dies. If the power of attorney continues after death or incapacity it is referred to as a durable power of attorney, which can be used to make healthcare decisions for the principal or to help manage their property either before or after their death.

Power of Attorney do I need one?

Although many people create a power of attorney in case of incapacity, this is not the only reason to create one. For instance, a power of attorney may also be needed if you are traveling or if you are in the military and will be stationed overseas.

What do I do if I need to establish Power of Attorney?

First, you need to find someone who you trust to manage your affairs. Although this can be your spouse, it does not have to be. The main goal is to find someone who you trust to protect your financial interests and make healthcare decisions, without delay, if you find you are unable to do so.

It is also important to establish a power of attorney before you need one. Unfortunately, if you have not appointed a power of attorney before an emergency, your family cannot appoint one for you. In fact, if you need someone to take care of you and you have not appointed a power of attorney your family may be required to go to court and ask for a guardian or conservator to be appointed. This process differs by state, and it can be very complicated and costly.

I have a will is this enough?

Although a will is a good first step in estate planning, it is not enough. A will does not allow someone else to make financial and healthcare decisions for you; it simply helps determine who will receive your assets following your death.

A power of attorney is only used when it is needed and it allows you, the principal, to determine how much power and responsibility you want to delegate to another person, including limited power of attorney or general power of attorney. You can also determine whether the power of attorney lasts for your lifetime or whether you would like it to terminate at a specific time.

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