While conversations surrounding estate plans and Power of Attorney may be uncomfortable for some in the short term, they are well worth having. Like many documents involved in estate planning, a Power of Attorney discusses and grants legal authority that makes the estate, grieving, or emergency response process easier and faster.
In general, a Power of Attorney document can allow someone to handle financial matters, make health care decisions, or care for children or other dependents. The specifics of a Power of Attorney document can determine which authorities are given to the agent, who is the person designated by the document, and when those authorities begin or terminate. The authority granted under a Power of Attorney can be all-encompassing or narrow in scope and tailored to fit specific needs.
All Power of Attorney documents are only enforceable while the principal, or the person for whom legal authority is being given to an agent, is alive. Once the principal passes away, the Power of Attorney expires if it has not already.
The most common type of Power of Attorney is a Springing Power of Attorney, which does not take effect until specified events, such as the principal becoming incapacitated. A Durable Power of Attorney takes effect either immediately or at a specific date, then remains in effect if the principal becomes incapacitated.
In contrast, limited or special Power of Attorney documents might exist only for short periods. Any of these can include or be limited to the authority to make financial decisions and actions, make decisions regarding the care of a principal’s child, or even make some health care decisions for the principal.
Most Power of Attorney documents are created as contingencies for incapacity and are safe ways to ensure that anyone can have a plan in place for administering financial and personal affairs if they are ever unable to do so. Having a Power of Attorney gives anyone more control over the process of handling their affairs should the need ever arise.