A power of attorney is a written legal document that provides authority for one person to act on behalf of another. General powers of attorney grant broad decision-making powers for the person authorized to act (the agent) on behalf of the person granting the authority (the principal). Because powers of attorney can be broad, you should meet with an experienced lawyer to customize your power of attorney. There are several specific powers of attorney that an experienced lawyer can advise you on.
Limited powers of attorney provide that the agent can act on behalf of the principal only within the scope of the specific terms detailed in the legal document. Particular areas of decision-making may be itemized, such as financial and medical decision-making abilities. Specific powers of attorney pertaining to medical decisions are called advanced medical directives or health care powers of attorney, and are generally separate from your other power of attorney documents.
A durable power of attorney is a power of attorney which will remain valid even if the principal later becomes incapacitated mentally. In Virginia, a power of attorney is automatically durable unless the document specifically states that it is revoked when the principal is incapacitated.
A power of attorney is effective upon signature provided that the signee (principal) is of sound mind – comprehending the consequences of the decision – when signing the document. Signing a power of attorney does not relinquish your ability to make decisions or take actions on your own. If the principal remains of sound mind, then the agent should only act on the principal’s behalf when requested by the principal to do so.
There are several advantages to establishing a power of attorney. The biggest advantage of having a power of attorney in place is that it enables you to select someone you trust to follow through with your wishes. The power of attorney provides you peace of mind. If a power of attorney is not in place and you become incapacitated, a legal guardianship or conservatorship must be established. Establishing a guardianship or conservatorship can be a costly and lengthy process. Because the procedure must be done in an open court, legal fees make the process expensive. The Court ultimately determines your guardian if a power of attorney was not made. A guardian is also required to submit annual accountings to the court, adding an additional time and financial burden on your representative.
If mobility is a challenge for you or a loved one, then a power of attorney can grant your agent the ability to assist you with common tasks that require legal authority. For instance, picking up medical prescriptions or depositing checks at the bank can be done on your behalf without your presence if a power of attorney is in place.
When you are ready to make plans for your future or the future of a loved one, it is time to consider a power of attorney. Consult with an experienced lawyer to customize the best power of attorney document that meets your objectives. The Hunter Law Firm team is an experienced and compassionate group of lawyers ready to serve you in your power of attorney planning needs. To speak to one of our highly qualified lawyers, contact us online or call one of our four convenient offices —