Power of Attorney
Power of Attorney
Orange County Lawyers Providing Sound Legal Guidance for Over 50 Years
A crucial part of the estate planning process is electing a power of attorney. Almost every case needs a power of attorney to take care of medical or financial affairs if you cannot do so yourself. There are several types of powers of attorney, so it is always best to consult a legal professional before you appoint one.
What Is a Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney (POA) is a document that allows you to appoint someone to manage your money, property, and medical decisions if you become unable to do so yourself. The individual who receives power of attorney is called an agent or attorney-in-fact. There are several types of POAs for different situations, so always speak to a lawyer to determine the best option for your situation.
A general power of attorney allows the person you appoint to act on your behalf. This may mean handling your insurance, business transactions, settling claims, and/or employing professional assistance. General POA is effective if you will be absent for an extended period or physically or mentally unable to handle your affairs. This type of POA is often included in an estate plan to ensure that someone is present to handle your financial matters.
Other POA options include the following:
- A special power of attorney allows you to designate specific responsibilities instead. Selling property or managing real estate is often a standard function of a special POA.
- Health care power of attorney grants your agent the authority to make critical medical decisions on your behalf if you are unconscious or otherwise medically incapacitated. A healthcare POA is not the same as a living will, but you can include your life support preferences in your will as a directive for your POA.
- In some situations, you may need a longer-term POA option due to incapacitation from an illness or injury. A durable power of attorney allows you to assign powers to an agent that will not go into effect unless a medical professional certifies you as mentally incompetent. With this, you can request that a specific doctor certify your competency or require two physicians to agree on your mental state.
An agent appointed through a power of attorney can be a loved one, guardian, organization, or another party. Never appoint someone to POA unless you trust that they have your best interests in mind. Remember, this person or organization will be responsible for making important decisions on your behalf and, in some cases, your health. Agents are only held accountable for intentional negligence and misconduct, not unintentional error. Additionally, agents do not receive compensation for their duties.
If you suspect that an agent is abusing their power, or intentionally causing harm, report it to law enforcement and contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
Other Factors to Consider
Trust should be a priority when appointing a power of attorney, but there are other important factors to consider as well. For example, in some cases, it may be better to appoint more than one agent to handle your affairs. In these cases, you must consider whether each party will make decisions jointly or separately. This can ensure that there will be a system of checks and balances to protect your interests. If you choose to have only one POA agent, consider selecting a backup in case of illness, injury, or death.
In order for your choice of power of attorney to be valid, you must be mentally competent when you sign the document. Have a physician confirm your mental state if you believe it could be questioned later. If an individual is mentally incompetent when they sign a POA, the court may question the agent and power of attorney.
You can revoke your power of attorney at any time as long as you are still mentally competent. Revocation of POA should always be in writing and signed in front of a notary public. You should also deliver the revocation notice to any party involved in your original agreement.
Helping You Protect Your Future
Selecting a power of attorney is a complicated process that can have consequences if done improperly. Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC has over 50 years of combined experience with legal matters concerning power of attorney and related issues. We understand how important this choice is for you, and we want to give you the information you need to protect your interests. Our legal team works with you to evaluate the details of your situation, and we can walk you through the different options available to you.
For help establishing, enforcing, or revoking a power of attorney in Orange County, contact our lawyers at Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC.
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