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Last revision: 11/30/2023
Available formats: Word and PDF
Size: 7 to 10 pages
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A Power of Attorney is a document between two parties, a principal and an agent, through which a principal can appoint someone to make financial decisions on their behalf. The principal is the person who signs the Power of Attorney and allows the agent to take over financial assets. Often, documents such as this are used when a principal is unable to make their own financial decisions, or in some cases, simply needs someone else to make such decisions for them. It is a serious document which should be entered into after much consideration.
A Power of Attorney can be used for any adult individuals, but it needs to be notarized in order to be effective. Within these documents, the principal outlines exactly which powers they would like the agent to have. A principal can also appoint a secondary agent, should their agent be unable or unwilling to perform.
A Power of Attorney is different than an Advance Healthcare Directive because an Advance Healthcare Directive only allows another individual to make healthcare decisions on a principal's behalf. It talks about specific circumstances under which a principal would like someone else to be their agent for health and allows a principal to define the types of authority they would like the agent to have. A Power of Attorney is similar, but is used only for financial decisions.
A Power of Attorney is also not like a bilateral agreement, it is more of a unilateral description of what authority is permitted by the principal.
How to use this document
This document can be used if someone is looking to appoint an agent to make financial decisions for them right now, or if someone would like to set up a document that's ready to go in case of incapacity. In this document, the principal or their representative will be able to enter pertinent identifying details about the parties. The person filling out the document will also be asked a series of questions to define exactly what types of authority the principal wants to give the agent.
The principal will also be able to choose how they would like the Power of Attorney to go into effect - for example, if they would like it to start at a specific date and last through incapacity, if they would it only like to begin if they are incapacitated, or if they would like to have it start at a specific date but end in case they are incapacitated.
The most important part of this document is the choice of agent. This person will be in charge of many financial assets once the principal sign sthe document. Generally, people select close family members, such as spouses or children, or long-time friends. However, any person whom a principal trusts to make the best decisions on their behalf can be chosen. Be aware that if the principal chooses a spouse and then later ends the marriage, the spouse's power will automatically terminate.
After inputting the required information, the Power of Attorney should be printed out and signed by the principal, as well as notarized.
Powers of Attorney in the United States are subject to the laws of individual states, so the document changes to conform to your particular state's laws. There is no overall federal law concerning Powers of Attorney, but there is a model Uniform Power of Attorney Act which many states have adopted, fully or partially.
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