Three times in the past month I have had people come to my law office seeking a Power of Attorney. In two of the cases I was able to help these clients with the document, but the other case was tragic already, and a Power of Attorney was impossible.
What is a Power of Attorney? First of all, a Power of Attorney is one of several pre-need documents that everyone should have. The pre-need documents every adult needs in addition to a Power of Attorney are a Will, a Living Will, a Medical Power of Attorney, a Designation of Guardian, and a HIPPA release.
A Power of Attorney a simple document that authorizes one person to perform lawful business for the benefit of another. We call these people the Agent, and the Principal, respectively. Sometimes the Agent is known as an Attorney In Fact. I like to think of the Agent and the Principal like Alfred and Bruce Wayne. Bruce Wayne is busy doing his work at Wayne Enterprises and being Batman, so Alfred handles the chores as his Agent. Bruce is the Principal who granted Alfred the Power of Attorney.
There are two main types of Powers of Attorney. The first goes into effect as soon as it’s signed. It’s effective immediately. As soon as it is signed, the Agent can go open a bank account, or pay utilities, or buy or sell real estate, or numerous other business tasks on behalf of the Principal. The only catch is the business must be lawful and for the benefit of the Principal.
The other type of Power of Attorney is called a Springing Power of Attorney. It is signed but remains dormant until the Principal is incapacitated or cannot act on his own. Then the Power of Attorney “springs” into action, authorizing the Agent with all the powers allowed by the Power of Attorney.
Which type is better? Arguments can be made for both types. Some people trust their Agent completely so they use an immediate Power of Attorney. Some Principals want the Agent to be able to act only when the Principal can’t act on their own. I advise the client of the distinction, and I draft the document based on the client’s informed choice. I do not have a preference.
What I do prefer is getting a Power of Attorney and other pre-need documents right away. In the tragic case this month, the couple was just going to work like any other day when the whole world changed for them. Who among us can tell what tomorrow holds? I recommend you get a Power of Attorney right away. The two clients that got their Powers of Attorney are better off as I type this essay. The other client is struggling to handle business she would be able to handle for her family if she had a Power of Attorney.
As always, this essay is educational in nature only, and is not intended to replace competent legal representation. Youngblood Law, PLLC does not publish legal advice, but we do recommend every adult have a Power of Attorney. Contact your lawyer to get the pre-need documents you need. These documents will protect your family in case the unthinkable happens. For more information on pre-need documents, see my Last Will and Testament page.

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