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What is the Power of Attorney?

Power of Attorney simply means a document that allows you to appoint a preferred individual or an organization to man ...

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What is the Power of Attorney?

Power of Attorney simply means a document that allows you to appoint a preferred individual or an organization to manage everything about your property; from financial affairs to even medical affairs, when you can no longer manage your affairs yourself.

Power of attorney is mostly used when the principal (the owner of the asset) suddenly becomes ill or incapacitated or in special scenarios where the principal is not available to sign necessary documents for financial transactions.

A Power of attorney is not continuous. In that it can end for quite a number of reasons;

  • In the event of the death of the principal
  • If a court invalidates it
  • The principal decides to revoke it
  • The agent can no longer carry out his/her responsibilities for any reason
  • If the principal decides to divorce his/her spouse who might have taken the responsibility of the agent

There are various types of powers of attorney and they fall either in the general power of attorney or the limited power of attorney. Each of them gives your attorney-in-fact, (the person in charge of making decisions on your behalf) some sort of control over your assets. The power of attorney is broad;

  • General power of attorney or limited power of attorney
  • Special power of attorney
  • Health care power of attorney
  • A durable power of attorney

Types of power of attorney

  • General power of attorney:  This type of POA gives broad powers to an organization or individual (an agent or an attorney-in-fact) to act on your behalf in any and all matters as allowed by the state. This kind of POA is very effective for individuals who would be traveling out of the country and might need someone to handle certain affairs. This POA can also be used when you are mentally or physically incapable of handling your affairs. The attorney-in-fact has the powers to handle financial and business transactions, settle claims, make gifts, operate business interests, and even employ professional help. Generally, a general POA is often included in estate planning. This is to ensure that there is someone who can handle financial matters.

  • Limited power of attorney: Just like the name suggests, the Limited power of attorney gives the agent the power to act on behalf of the principal only in specific matters. Limited power of attorney can also be limited to a specific period of time. Say a period where the principal is out of the country or out of town

  • Special power of attorney: With this kind of POA, you can assign specific powers an agent can exercise. This is mostly used when you can no longer handle some important affairs as a result of health or other commitments. The special power of attorney has the power to handle some business transactions, collect debts, sell the property and even manage real estate.

  • Health care power of attorney: As the name suggests, the health care power of attorney is given the power to make medical decisions when you are unable to do so. This could be as a result of one being mentally incompetent or unconscious. This consists of legal instructions regarding your preferences for medical care in a situation where you are unable to make this decision yourself.  This could be as a result of you being indisposed, mentally incompetent, or in a coma. The person you choose to act as your agent may be called any of the following depending on the area you live
  • Health care agent
  • Health care surrogate
  • Health care proxy
  • Health care attorney-in-fact
  • Health care representative

To select a health care power of attorney, you must ensure that the person you select;

  • Is not a part of your medical team
  • Is willing to discuss end of life issues with you
  • Is willing to discuss medical care with you
  • Can be trusted to make decisions, putting your best interest at heart
  • Can be trusted to be your advocate, just in case there is any form of disagreement concerning your health.

It is very important that when making this selection, you choose someone who holds your best interest at heart because your agent has the power to choose life or death

  • A durable power of attorney: This POA is created mostly to keep your document valid. In other words, this is a general, special or health care power of attorney that has a durable provision to keep the current Power of attorney in charge just in case you get mentally incapacitated or ill. You can decide to sign a durable power of attorney to prepare for the possibility that you may become mentally incompetent as a result of illness or injury. This can be made in your favor, by specifying in your power of attorney that it cannot go into effect until a doctor certifies you as mentally incompetent to handle your affairs.

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