What Is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a document that:

  • Appoints an attorney-in-fact, or agent, to manage tasks and make decisions on your behalf if you're unable to
  • Specifies the financial, business, real estate, and legal powers you are granting to your agent
  • Ensures that your legal and financial responsibilities continue to be taken care of in any circumstance, including illness, long-term travel, and mental incapacity
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What's the Difference Between an Ordinary and Durable Power of Attorney?

Ordinary and durable powers of attorney can have different uses and expire at different times.

An ordinary Power of Attorney:

  • Can become effective immediately or on a specific date
  • Remains in effect until you lose mental capacity
  • Is generally used when you need someone to act on your behalf temporarily due to sickness, injury, or travel

A durable Power of Attorney:

  • Can be immediate, or it can spring into effect on a specific date
    or upon mental incapacity
  • Remains in place until you die
  • Is usually set up to grant someone authority to act in your place
    if you're incapacitated

Why Do I Need a Power of Attorney?

It's important to have a Power of Attorney in place if:

  • You have a serious illness
  • You have limited mobility
  • You'll be out of the country for an extended period for work, military deployment, or a holiday
  • You have assets, such as rental properties or a business, that would need to be managed in your absence
  • You have minor children who would require care in the event
    you become incapacitated
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How Do I Choose an Attorney-in-Fact?

You can appoint more than one agent to ease the workload and the decision making.

Your agent(s) must:

  • Have reached the age of majority
  • Be of sound mind

In addition, your agent(s) should:

  • Have your full trust
  • Be able to make decisions in your best interest
  • Be willing and available to take on the responsibility
  • Be familiar with managing finances and keeping accurate records

What Powers Can I Give to My Agent?

You can grant your attorney-in-fact general authority to manage your affairs, or choose the specific responsibilities they will have.

You can put your agent in charge of:

  • Real estate, such as making personal mortgage payments and managing rental properties
  • Personal finance and business interests, which includes managing bank accounts, business transactions, and investments
  • Family care and gifts, which includes maintaining charitable gifts
  • Benefits and taxes, such as managing retirement plans and filing taxes
  • Legal and insurance matters, such as handling insurance and annuity policies
Legal, financial, and real estate interests

What Other Documents Do You Need?

These forms may also be useful in your estate planning:

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