A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that allows another person to step into your shoes and make decisions for you when you are unable to make decisions for yourself. If you are the person creating a POA, you are known as the principal. And the person you appoint to make decisions for you, is known as the agent or attorney-in-fact.
Typically, a POA is used when the principal is unable to manage their financial and/or medical matters. And typically, this occurs when the principal is temporarily or permanently incapacitated. Incapacitated means that you are unable to make decisions for yourself or unable to effectively manage your own affairs.
POAs are used for different reasons. However, the two most common uses are to manage general financial and medical decisions. For example, an agent under a financial POA has the authority to access the principal’s bank account, sign checks, and sell property. An agent under a health care POA has the authority to make decisions about medical treatment and care.
Everyone over the age of 18 should consider nominating agents under financial and medical POAs. It doesn’t matter if you have a lot of assets, are retired, in college, or just starting out on your own. Having a financial and medical power of attorney is a cost-efficient legal tool to manage your financial and medical affairs. Nominating an agent under a POA may also avoid the cost and emotional expense of a court process, like guardianship or conservatorship.
The person you choose to be your agent will have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. Therefore, you should carefully consider your choice. The person should be trustworthy, organized, and understand that they are to act in your best interest.
If you don’t have such a trusted person in your life, then you may want to consider a professional option such as a bank, trust company, or professional fiduciary.
During your lifetime, you may modify your POA many times. For example, a college student or young parents may nominate a parent, spouse, friend or sibling, where an older professional or retiree may choose to nominate their spouse, child, or trusted younger family member. A POA can be terminated by several different methods. A POA can be revoked by the principal if they have capacity to do so. And the death of the principal terminates the power of the agent under the POA.
Powers of attorney are necessary for all adults as a proactive planning tool and to avoid the time and expense of court proceedings, if they become necessary. However, powers of attorney should not be entered into lightly, and should be carefully considered with the help of a trusted legal professional. The attorneys at SYK have over 431 combined years of legal training and experience. We pride ourselves on providing high quality legal services to clients throughout the Portland metro area, including SW Washington.