A power of attorney is a document in which you state that you give someone else (usually a relative or friend) the authority to make certain decisions and act on your behalf. The person to whom you give these powers is called an “agent” or “attorney-in-fact.” You are called the “principal.” Just because the word attorney is used does not mean that the person you give authority to has to be a lawyer.
Executing a power of attorney does not mean that you can no longer make decisions; it just means that another person can act for you also. For example, you may be hospitalized for a brief period of time and need someone to deposit your checks in the bank or pay your bills. As long as you are capable of making decisions, the other person must follow your directions. You are simply sharing your power with someone else. You can revoke the agent’s authority under the power of attorney at any time if you become dissatisfied with what they are doing.
The type of power of attorney provided by Legal Services for the Elderly is a durable power of attorney. The word “durable” means that your agent can continue to make decisions for you if you become incapacitated. The agent will still be obligated to act in your best interest, making decisions and using your money and property only for your benefit.
By establishing a durable power of attorney, you are giving the agent some of the following powers:
To spend your money, cash checks, and withdraw money from your bank accounts
To sell your property
To enter into contracts on your behalf
To pursue insurance claims and legal actions
If you do not establish a durable power of attorney and you become mentally incapacitated, it may be necessary for a court to appoint a guardian or conservator for you.