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What Does a “Power of Attorney” Do?
When you give someone your Power of Attorney, that person can handle your personal and business affairs if you are still living, but unable to take care of these things for yourself due to illness, injury, deployment, or any number of other reasons.
The many powers granted to an “attorney-in-fact” can be divided among multiple individuals. You might give the powers to conduct personal financial transactions to a sibling, but the powers to conduct business transactions to an adult child, and then give the powers to adjust estate and benefit plans to a spouse.
Unless you put a time limit on the Power of Attorney, the powers automatically expire when you pass away. Again, there is no requirement that you be related to your attorney-in-fact, so you can choose any adult you trust to handle these matters on your behalf.
Frequently, we get calls from family members asking to “get” power of attorney “over” someone. If your family member is able to make his or her own decisions, then that person can give power of attorney to whomever they choose.
Once that individual becomes incompetent, the only real option for someone else to handle those affairs is to ask the court to appoint a guardian. When a guardian is appointed, the person no longer takes care of his or her own matters and the guardian does that instead.
Together with a Living Will, an appointment of a Health Care Representative, and a Will and Testament, the Power of Attorney can complete a basic estate plan. This document enables and authorizes someone to handle your checkbook and your insurance questions, your property tax bill and your safety deposit box.