Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney is a written document that allows you to appoint someone you trust (your agent) to manage your finances and take care of your assets. By executing a power of attorney, you (as the principal) authorize your agent to engage in certain transactions on your behalf.
A general power of appointment usually gives your agent broad powers such as to deposit funds to bank accounts, write checks, buy or sell assets, sign and file tax documents, and manage investments. You can however, limit a power of attorney to specific acts. A limited power of attorney gives your agent only a specific power. An example might be where you are out of the country and name someone to act on your behalf in the sale of real property. Any power of attorney can be limited as to acts and/or time period.
Powers of attorney for finances are either “springing” durable powers of attorney or immediately effective powers of attorney. If a power of attorney is “springing,” it means that one or two doctors certify in writing that you are unable to manage your own finances. A power of attorney that is immediately effective means that your agent can act under the document immediately upon execution. An immediately effective power of attorney grants broad and immediate powers so it should be used only in certain circumstances.
A power of attorney is called “durable” because it survives the disability of the principal. It also does not lapse with the passage of time unless the document specifically states a time limitation.
Trust packages should always include a power of attorney for yourself and for your spouse if you are married. In addition, a different type of power of attorney, called an advance health care directive should also be included. An advance health care directive (AHCD) is discussed in another section.