What is ‘Power of Attorney’ and Why Is It Important?
A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document authorizing someone to act on your behalf in legal matters. Giving someone, even limited power, over any segment of your life is an important action and should not to be taken lightly. The San Luis Obispo attorneys at Toews Law Group, Inc. believe that the more information you have about authorizing power of attorney and choosing an agent, or attorney-in-fact, the more peace of mind you will have.
The agent you choose must be someone your trust to act in your best interest, even when the circumstances specified in the POA are narrow and limited. The wording of a POA is also very important, as is the form of POA.
Power of Attorney Forms
- General Power of Attorney, giving your agent broad authority in a number of specified legal matters, except health care decisions.
- Limited Power of Attorney allowing your agent to act in a narrowly defined and specific circumstances.
- Power of Attorney for Health Care, authorizes your agent to make decisions about your medical treatment if you are unable to make or communicate such decisions
Reasons to have a Power of Attorney
Some of the more common powers granted in a Power of Attorney include:
- Authorizing an accountant or tax attorney to communicate with the IRS and Franchise Tax Bureau on your behalf
- Authorizing a real estate agent or other individual (even your attorney) to operate on your behalf in a real estate sale or purchase
- Decision making power to acquire or dispose of certain assets
- Authorizing your agent to make specific decisions on your behalf if you are out of the country, such as in military service or in regions where communication is difficult
- Designating someone to make financial decisions in the event you are unable to do so yourself, such as paying bills and managing investments
- Settling claims against you if you are unable to do so
- Operating your business or representing you in business interests
- Claiming assets, such as an inheritance, if you are not able to do so
- Decision making power on behalf of your dependents in the event you are unable to do so yourself
- Making medical and health decisions according to the wishes set down in your Advanced Health Care Directive (AHCD), including withholding medical procedures and treatments
Getting it right
Unfortunately, relying on friends and family members to remember and follow any wishes you have shared with them in conversation is not practical. People forget and life changes. Divorces happen and people die. If you are in a situation where you are unable to make a decision for yourself, whether that means you are incapacitated or deep in the Amazonian jungle out of cell service, what you told your best friend can easily be disregarded by your current spouse or children. And an ex-spouse taking advantage of an outdated POA is not just a plot for a prime-time TV movie. So, when you are granting control of even a narrow aspect of your life to another, it’s important to:
- Be clear and precise about what control you are granting and any time limits on that power
- Choose someone you trust completely to act on your behalf
The attorneys at San Luis Obispo’s Toews Law Group, Inc. have extensive experience in a wide range of estate planning, business, corporate, tax and nonprofit matters and are able to help you make the best decisions regarding any Power of Attorney you may need and designating a trustworthy agent.