Why is a Power of Attorney Necessary?

Learn why having a Power Of Attorney (POA) is essential in case you are incapacitated or not physically present to make decisions on your own behalf. Find out what type of POA best suits your needs and how it can help protect your assets.

Why is a Power of Attorney Necessary?

There are many good reasons to make a power of attorney, as it ensures that someone will take care of your financial affairs if you become incapacitated. You should choose a trusted family member, a proven friend or an honest and reputable professional. A power of attorney is essential in case you are incapacitated or not physically present to make decisions on your own behalf. Learn more in our detailed guide. There are no special requirements necessary for someone to act as a de facto lawyer, except that the person must not be a minor or otherwise incapacitated.

The best option is someone you trust. Integrity, not financial acumen, is often the most important trait of a potential agent. There is no legal requirement for an attorney to prepare or review a power of attorney. However, if you are granting important powers of attorney to an agent, it is advisable to get individual legal advice before signing a complicated form. A person who signs a power of attorney without fully understanding what it means, and without considering risks and alternatives, is looking for trouble.

To create a legally valid medical power of attorney, you must be a safe adult. This document is effective when your doctor states that you do not have the ability to make your own health care decisions. The power of attorney for health care usually only extinguishes upon your death, revocation by you or a court, or after divorce if the power of attorney was granted to the former spouse. Generally, a power of attorney that is valid when you sign it will remain valid even if you change your state of residence. The person named in a power of attorney to act on your behalf is commonly referred to as your de facto agent or agent.

Certain circumstances may trigger a desire for a power of attorney (POA) for a person over the age of 18. It is often more convenient to have two separate powers of attorney, one for financial obligations and one for health care decisions. In addition to the power of your agent to make donations on your behalf, many powers of your agent are in fact governed by state law. The Power of Attorney Act provides that any natural person who has the capacity to contract may execute a power of attorney. The legal forms & services section of FindLaw can help you draft a financial power of attorney and health care directive & living will. Online services generally charge less than lawyers and offer price levels depending on the amount of legal assistance you need. Unless your power of attorney specifically says otherwise, your agent's power of attorney ends if you become mentally incapacitated.

If you own real estate, such as a vacation home, or valuable personal property, such as collectibles, in a second state, you should consult with an attorney to ensure that your power of attorney adequately covers such assets. A person who wants the power of attorney to remain in effect after the person's health deteriorates would have to sign a durable power of attorney (DPOA). Some institutions or individuals may doubt the validity of a power of attorney that has not been notarized and may refuse to respect it. There are other, more specific types of POAs that can expand or restrict an agent's decision-making powers. You can grant power of attorney to two or more people at the same time, or you can appoint a second agent to take over in specific circumstances (such as the death of the first agent). You can also design your durable power of attorney to “come into action only when certain criteria are met. A power of attorney may end for several reasons, such as when the principal revokes the agreement or dies, when a court invalidates it, or when the agent is no longer able to fulfill the described responsibilities.