A Power of Attorney allows you to name someone to manage your affairs when you are unable to do so. The person who signs (executes) a Power of Attorney is called the Principal. The Power of Attorney gives legal authority to another person (called an Agent or Attorney-in-Fact) to make property, financial and other legal decisions for the Principal.
A Principal can give an Agent broad legal authority, or very limited authority. The Power of Attorney is frequently used to help in the event of a Principal’s illness or disability, or in legal transactions where the principal cannot be present to sign necessary legal documents.
What kinds of legal authority can be granted with a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney can be used to grant any, or all, of the following legal powers to an Agent:
- Buy or sell your real estate
- Manage your property
- Conduct your banking transactions
- Invest, or not invest, your money
- Make legal claims and conduct litigation
- Attend to tax and retirement matters
- Make gifts on your behalf
How do I select an Agent for a Power of Attorney?
You should choose a trusted family member, a proven friend, or a professional with an outstanding reputation for honesty. Remember, signing a Power of Attorney that grants broad authority to an Agent is very much like signing a blank check. Certainly, you should never give a Power of Attorney to someone you do not trust fully. And do not allow anyone to force you into signing a Power of Attorney.
Can I appoint more than one Agent in a Power of Attorney?
Yes. You may appoint multiple Agents. If you appoint two or more Agents, you must decide whether they must act together in making decisions involving your affairs, or whether each can act separately.
Once I sign a Power of Attorney, may I continue to make legal and financial decisions for myself?
Yes. The Agent named in a Power of Attorney is your representative, not your “boss.” As long as you have the legal capacity to make decisions, you can direct your Agent to do only those things that you want done.
Do I need to have my signature witnessed on a Power of Attorney?
Yes. Your signature on the Power of Attorney must be witnessed by a Notary Public.