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Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a legal document delegating authority from one person to another.  In the document, the Maker of the Power of Attorney (the “Principal”) grants the right to act on the Maker’s behalf as their “Agent”.  What authority is granted depends on the specific language of the Power of Attorney.  A person giving a Power of Attorney may make it very broad or may limit it to certain specific acts.

 What is a Durable Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney terminates if the principal becomes incapacitated, unless it is a special kind of Power of Attorney known as a “Durable Power of Attorney”. A Durable Power of Attorney remains effective even if a person becomes incapacitated.  A Durable Power of Attorney must contain special wording that provides the power survives the incapacity of the Principal.

 What are some uses of a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney may be used to give another the right to sell a car, a home or other property.  It might be used to allow another to access bank accounts, sign a contract, handle financial transactions or sign legal documents for the Principal.  A Power of Attorney may give others the right to do almost any legal act that the Maker of the Power of Attorney could do, including the ability to create trusts and make gifts.

Does a Power of Attorney need to be witnessed and notarized?

Yes.  A Power of Attorney must be signed by the Principal in the presence of two witnesses and a notary.

 Must a person be competent to sign a Power of Attorney?

Yes.  The Principal must understand what he or she is signing at the time the document is signed.  The Principal must understand the effect of a Power of Attorney, to whom he or she is giving the Power of Attorney and what property may be affected by the Power of Attorney.

 Who may serve as an Agent?

Any competent person 18 years of age or older may serve as an Agent.  Agents should be chosen for reliability and trustworthiness.

When is a Power of Attorney effective?

A Power of Attorney is effective as soon as the Principal signs it.

How should the Agent sign when acting as an Agent?

The agent will always want to add after his or her signature that the document is being signed “as Agent for” the Principal.  If the Agent signs only his or her name, the Agent may be held personally responsible for whatever was signed.

 When does a Power of Attorney Terminate?

The authority of any Agent under a Power of Attorney automatically ends when one of the following happens: 1) the Principal dies: 2) the Principal revokes the Power of Attorney; 3) a court determines that the Principal is totally or partially incapacitated and the Power of Attorney does not specifically provide that it will remain in force; 4) the purpose of the Power of Attorney is completed; or 5) the term of the Power of attorney expires.