Writing a will or trust is of more concern than drafting a power of attorney for most seniors. A will becomes effective only upon the death of the testator or principal. But what if you are still alive but incapacitated and can’t make decisions on your own? Who represents you? That’s what a power of attorney form defines.
What is Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney is a legally binding written authorization signed between two parties that allows one party (the agent or attorney-in-fact) to act on behalf of the other party (the principal) regarding the principal's property, finances or medical care.
It is one of the most important legal documents in the quiver of anyone. The principal may choose to give broad legal or limited authority to the agent. Since the agent makes decisions on the principal’s behalf, it is usually recommended that this agent is a relative, spouse, next of kin or present in the will of the principal.
Types of Power of Attorney
There are different types of power of attorney: general, durable, limited, springing, non-springing and medical power of attorney.
General power of attorney:
A general power of attorney form grants the agent to act on behalf of the principal on almost all legal matters. The agent is trusted to represent the principal on all fronts.
Durable power of attorney:
A durable power of attorney authorizes an agent to represent the principal when he/she is no longer able to handle matters, make certain decisions on his/her own. The durable power of attorney includes a durable clause that maintains that this power remains effective even after incapacitation of the principal. However, a durable power of attorney terminates after the death of the principal.
A principal can revoke a durable POA using a revocation of power of attorney form. But this is subject to confirmation by a certified medical personnel. It must also be signed in the presence of some witnesses who can confirm that the principal is not under duress to change his/her agent nor under the influence of alcohol. The most popular form of durable power of attorney is a medical power of attorney.
Non-durable power of attorney
A non-durable power of attorney is only used for a specified period of time and usually for a particular transaction. It is revoked upon the incapacitation of the principal or completion of the transaction.
Medical power of attorney:
A medical power of attorney also described as a health care proxy or advance directive is a legal document that endows the principal with the rights to appoint someone to make medical decisions on their behalf. The principals may nominate their agent to make all medical decisions concerning them or allow them to have the final say in things like what surgical procedures they should undergo and whether or not they should get a blood transfusion.
This agent is only responsible for medical decisions and not liable for the principal’s medical bills. The agent also doesn’t have the abilities to make financial arrangements on behalf of the principal unless the principal has also given the agent durable (financial) powers of attorney.
In general, the agent ensures that the health care providers provide the principals with proper medical care as specified by the principals in their Living Will or Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) form.
Limited power of attorney:
A limited power of attorney forms gives the agent legal permission to represent the principal on specific matters for a particular time frame.
Springing power of attorney:
Here, the power of attorney becomes effective only after a particular date specified on the document. Take, for example, it might be documented that the power becomes effective only after the principal becomes incapacitated. Some states do not allow this kind of power of attorney according to their state laws. A good example is Florida.
Non-springing power of attorney:
Unlike a springing power of attorney, a non-springing attorney becomes effective as soon as the poa form is signed.
What Are Included In A Power of Attorney?
The following are things a blank power of attorney form must contain. This is the case regardless of whether the power of attorney template was obtained from a local library or from a website.
The title of the power of attorney document helps anyone – at first glance - identify the matters in which the agent represents the principal.
Identities of the principal and agent:
This part contains the addresses and phone numbers of the principal and agent.
Date of the form:
The date here refers to the date the document was signed. In the case of a non-springing power of attorney document, the date the power of attorney form becomes effective should also be included.
Details about the specific powers of the agent or attorney-in-fact:
In the case of a limited power of attorney, the principal must specify the particular powers he/she chooses to grant the agent.
Must-knows before Signing A Power of Attorney form
Depending on what type of power of attorney you are signing, there are certain things you must know. Here’s what an agent can or cannot do:
A health care attorney-in-fact may help decide
- Medical care.
- Home health care
- Surgery and hospital care
- Care provider
- Food etc
However, all of this largely depends on the financial means of the principal.
A financial agent has the power to:
- File taxes on your behalf
- Collect all your debts
- Make management decisions in your stead
- Manage all your properties and
- Apply on your behalf on veteran benefits, among other forms of benefits.
A power of attorney does not specifically limit the rights of an agent. Still, there are certain things an agent is not legally permitted to do.
An agent cannot:
- Change the will of the principal
- Make decisions on the principal’s behalf after his/her demise
- In his/her own rights transfer the power of attorney to another, even if it is a close relative.
- For any reason, break his/her fiduciary duty to act in the principal’s interest.
If you can’t draft a power of attorney form, you can make use of any of Cocosign free power of attorney forms. On the site are power of attorney samples that are both general and specific.