What is a Durable Power of Attorney?
A durable power of attorney is a legal document that grants authority to another person, known as the agent or attorney-in-fact, to act on your behalf and make decisions in various matters if you become incapacitated or unable to make decisions for yourself. The "durable" aspect means that the power of attorney remains in effect even if you become mentally or physically incapacitated.
Key Points to Understand About a Durable Power of Attorney
Authority and Scope: A durable power of attorney gives the appointed agent the authority to make decisions and take actions on your behalf in specific areas outlined in the document. This can include financial matters, such as managing bank accounts, paying bills, and handling investments, as well as healthcare decisions, such as medical treatment options and accessing medical records.
Agent Selection: You have the ability to choose the person you trust to act as your agent. It is crucial to select someone who is reliable, responsible, and understands your wishes and values. This person should be capable of handling the responsibilities outlined in the power of attorney document.
Effective Date and Durability: A durable power of attorney can be effective immediately upon signing or it can be structured to become effective only when a specific event occurs, such as when a doctor certifies your incapacity. It remains in effect until you revoke it, pass away, or until a specified end date mentioned in the document.
Legal Formalities: Creating a durable power of attorney typically requires compliance with specific legal formalities that may vary depending on your jurisdiction. These formalities often involve signing the document in the presence of witnesses or having it notarized. It is advisable to consult an attorney to ensure your durable power of attorney complies with the relevant laws.
Revocability: As long as you are mentally competent, you have the right to revoke or modify the durable power of attorney at any time. It is important to keep the document updated to reflect your current wishes and circumstances.
A durable power of attorney can be a valuable tool in ensuring your affairs are managed and decisions are made in your best interest if you are unable to do so. Consult with an attorney specializing in estate planning or elder law to create a durable power of attorney that aligns with your specific needs and legal requirements.