What is a Power of Attorney and When Does it Become Effective?

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal instrument that gives someone else the right to act on your behalf.  The person granting that power (the “principal”) grants the right to act on his/her behalf to the agent, who is also referred to as the attorney-in-fact.

The language of the POA determines what powers are granted to the agent; it may be broad and encompass everything the principal may do or it could be specific to a certain act. Therefore, it is a very powerful document and many things should be considered before executing one, such as the powers that are granted and to whom they are being granted. You still retain your ability to act for yourself; the execution of a power of attorney only grants the power for someone else to act on your behalf as well, it does not take away your ability to act for yourself.

A power of attorney is effective as soon as you sign the document.  Therefore, the person you name as your agent gets immediate authority and can start acting on your behalf. For this reason, it is important to ensure your agent is someone you completely trust and who has your best interests in mind. However, practically, the agent can only act on the principal’s behalf if he/she knows that she has been appointed as the attorney-in-fact.

A power of attorney terminates if the principal becomes incapacitated. A durable power of attorney (DPOA) remains effective even if the principal becomes incapacitated and it allows the agent to continue to act and handle the principal’s affairs. Most powers of attorney are durable.

The execution of a durable power of attorney is important for seniors and is an essential part of planning for the future. The Elder Law Firm of Clements & Wallace, P.L. has extensive experience powers of attorney and estate planning. Contact our elder law attorneys for an appointment to answer your questions and give you peace of mind as you plan for your future.