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A power of attorney is a very powerful document. A general power of attorney gives the person you name as your agent the authority to sign any document and to carry on any business you could do yourself. When you grant an unlimited general power of attorney, the agent can do anything in your name he or she chooses without asking your permission. Obviously, an unlimited general power of attorney should not be granted without thoroughly considering the potential consequences.

The better course of action may be to limit the power of attorney to certain activities. There are times when it makes sense to have a trusted person carry out certain duties or execute certain documents. If you need to grant a limited power of attorney to an agent, be sure that experienced professionals draft the document. The lawyers at Day Shell & Liljenquist, L.C. take the time to understand your needs and explain your options.

What are some common uses for a power of attorney?

A power of attorney may be used for a number of purposes, including:

  • Medical decisions. A medical or healthcare power of attorney can allow your agent to make medical decisions for you.
  • Parental rights. In some situations, such as short-term military deployment, you may need to delegate some or all of your rights as a parent to someone else for a period of up to six months.
  • Financial decisions. You may allow a person who is not on your checking account to withdraw money from your account for a specific reason.
What is a durable power of attorney?

Powers of attorney generally lose effect when the principal (the person who granted the power of attorney) dies or becomes incapacitated. That makes sense because a power of attorney authorizes an agent to do what the principal could do. Since a deceased or incapacitated principal cannot execute documents, the agent cannot do so.

The path around this rule is a durable power of attorney. A durable power of attorney can be drafted so that it does not take effect until a person becomes incapacitated. For this reason, durable powers of attorney are often used to designate a trusted friend or family member to carry out the principal's financial affairs if the principal becomes incapacitated.

What is a healthcare power of attorney?

A healthcare power of attorney is often used in conjunction with a living will to appoint a specific person to be a healthcare proxy. The healthcare proxy, or agent, can be instructed to make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated. Your living will can specify the care you wish to receive or reject regarding certain life-prolonging medical procedures. Your healthcare proxy is charged with carrying out your medical wishes.

Is a power of attorney the same thing as a guardianship?

Unlike a power of attorney, a guardianship cannot be created voluntarily. Guardianship is ordered by a judge. A guardianship is similar to a parent-child relationship, except that guardians do not have to use their own money to provide for the ward. Guardianships are commonly granted when adults can no longer care for themselves or to make a person the guardian of a minor.