Power of Attorney Explained

Power of Attorney Explained: What’s the power of attorney? In some countries, this legal document gives another person (called an attorney-in-fact) the power to make specific decisions on your behalf. If you haven’t specified which decisions can be made by your attorney-in-fact, then they have complete control over your assets.

What Is Power of Attorney?

Although many people are under the impression that Power of Attorney (POA) and living wills, or advance directives, are interchangeable terms, they are not. They serve completely different purposes. Both POA and living will allow you to designate someone to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to make decisions on your behalf. POA is a legal document that allows another person (your attorney-in-fact) to handle financial and business matters for you while living and will provide instructions for medical treatment when you cannot speak for yourself due to illness or injury.

Why Do I Need a Power of Attorney?

The purpose of a power of attorney is to ensure that in case you become disabled, unable to make your own financial decisions, or otherwise incapacitated, someone else can. If you don’t have a power of attorney or durable power of attorney in place (and many people don’t), your loved ones will be forced to go through a court procedure to manage your financial affairs for you. If there are questions about your competency (or if you can no longer make your own decisions at all), it could be weeks before anyone has access to anything as simple as bank accounts or other assets. You wouldn’t want them going without food and shelter just because they couldn’t get into your bank account quickly enough!

Legal Definition

Power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone you trust (your attorney-in-fact) authority to make decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself. It can be broad, granting your attorney-in-fact general power over your assets, or very specific—for example, giving your attorney-in-fact authorization to withdraw money from a bank account to pay medical bills. To create a power of attorney you need to specify what authority is being granted (the scope) when it goes into effect (the effective date), and how long it lasts. Powers of attorney can last indefinitely or only last as long as specified in the document.

What Makes a Good Power of Attorney Designation Form

A power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone else (your attorney-in-fact) specific powers to act on your behalf. When you need an attorney-in-fact, it’s usually because you can’t make decisions for yourself. For example, an aging parent might create a springing power of attorney that only goes into effect when they are unable to take care of themselves or if they go into a nursing home. The choice should be carefully considered and not done in haste. Because it can be difficult to undo a designation in case there are problems with how it is being used, here are some things you should look for in any power of attorney designation form

When Does the Power of Attorney Take Effect

If you want to change or revoke your POA designation form, it must be notarized. It is up to you to inform those involved with your care and money that it has been changed. This may include your physician, financial institutions, legal representatives, and family members. If you do not inform these people of changes, they may continue carrying out activities for which only your designated representative can act as per your instructions in power of attorney. Many states allow for electronic versions of POA forms when creating them online so that they are easier to access and store electronically via cloud services like DropBox or Google Drive rather than stored on a computer’s hard drive.

Where Should I Keep My POA Designation Form?

If your loved one is already being treated for a mental illness, you may want to name someone else (perhaps another family member) to serve as his or her POA. In addition, if your loved one is living in an assisted-living facility or nursing home, you must consult with both their healthcare provider and staff before naming a POA. An experienced attorney can advise you on how to best protect your loved one’s rights while ensuring that he or she is cared for properly.

Who Can Be Named in My POA Designation Form?

If you need to change or revoke your POA, it can be done quickly, easily, and inexpensively by either filing a form with your state’s probate court or making a simple modification to any POA that is currently in place. The process varies based on where you live and whether you are changing or revoking an existing document or creating a new one. In some cases, you can even do it online. The important thing is to get started as soon as possible after realizing your desire to make changes to avoid complications. Another key factor is understanding that there may be tax consequences associated with creating or modifying an existing power of attorney agreement; discuss them with an accountant before taking action.

Who Should Not Be Named in My POA Designation Form?

One of the first things you should do when creating a POA document is to make sure that your designated agent can act on your behalf. Before you decide who to put in your designations, find out whether there are any situations in which someone would not be able to act on your behalf. For example, if you’re interested in setting up a durable power of attorney for health care (POAHCA), make sure that your selected agent does not have certain relationships with other people — like children or grandchildren — who may interfere with his ability to make these important decisions. Your doctor or another healthcare provider can help you figure out whether any issues might arise from naming an agent who has children or grandkids close in age to yours.

What Happens If There Are Problems With My POA Designation Form or Someone Else Wants to Make Health Care Decisions For Me Instead Of My Designated Agent Under the Power of Attorney?
If your POA form or someone else’s designation form is not legally sufficient, then your designated agent does not have the authority to make decisions on your behalf. If there are problems with your POA designations, you will be in good company. About ten percent of legal documents do not comply with state law requirements. Under these circumstances, when either you or another person needs help making decisions, others will likely need to step in to assist.

How Do I Change or Revoke my POA Designation Form if I Change My Mind About the Person I Have Named in It, Become Unable to Narrow it, Disagree with Its Terms, or Meet an Untimely Death Before Its Expiration Date?
The person that you choose to be in your Power of Attorney will act as your representative if you cannot make decisions for yourself. When a Power of Attorney becomes effective, it gives your representative specific rights over your affairs and property. As such, there are steps you must take to revoke or change any prior document. Contact an attorney at Klapper & Parker today to discuss how our legal team can help with revoking or changing Power of Attorney documents. We serve clients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Philadelphia and Cherry Hill.

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