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Just What Is a Power of Attorney?

Posted by Nina Whitehurst | Aug 31, 2018 | 0 Comments

Don't wait until it is too late. Get a POA now.

While most people are familiar with a will in an estate plan, a power of attorney draws a lot of misconceptions, according to the article in A Place For Mom “5 Misconceptions About a Power of Attorney.”

Misconception #1–You can sign a power of attorney, even if you are legally incompetent.

Not true. This is one of the most common misconceptions. In fact, if you have a document from a medical doctor that says a person is not competent, that person is no longer able to sign any legal documents. Many people generally think about what they need to do, i.e., accessing a bank account when an elderly parent can no longer do so.  However, if Dad lost his legal capacity just before a power of attorney or living trust was signed, that's no longer an option. You'll have to go through a guardianship or conservatorship proceeding through the court to have any control over Dad's assets.

Misconception #2—You can find a power of attorney document online.

You might find such a document online but it most likely will not be suited to your circumstances. You need to have a power of attorney custom drafted, so it is legal in your state and addresses your family's needs. Many online documents end up being useless. It's a big risk to take.

Misconception #3—A power of attorney lets the agent do whatever they want.

The agent under a power of attorney has a legal and fiduciary duty to make decisions in the best interests of the person who named them as power of attorney. They have not been handed a free pass; on the contrary, they have a big responsibility to do the right thing.

Misconception #4—There is one power of attorney.

This is why an estate planning attorney is needed for the power of attorney. There are two main types: a general power of attorney and a limited or special power of attorney. They are named correctly: a general power of attorney allows for buying or selling property or managing assets. A limited or special power of attorney refers to a specific transaction or task. Which one you need, depends on the laws of your state and the circumstances.

Misconception #5—A power of attorney survives death.

All powers of attorney terminate on death. Once a person has passed, so has the authority for their agent to act on their behalf. A durable power of attorney allows the agent to act, in the event of incapacity but not death.

An estate planning attorney can advise you on creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances and may include a POA.

Resource: A Place For Mom (July 11, 2018) “5 Misconceptions About a Power of Attorney”

About the Author

Nina Whitehurst

Attorney at Law Nina has been practicing law for over 30 years in the areas of estate planning, real estate and business law She is currently licensed in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon and Tennessee. Her Martindale-Hubbell attorney rating is the highest achievable: 5 stars in peer...


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