You might know that a power of attorney will play a key role in any estate plan you choose to create. What you might not realize, however, is that by creating a power of attorney, you give decision-making authority to other people. Those people will have the legal right to make decisions for you.
People who first learned of this delegation of authority sometimes hesitate in making powers of attorney because they are uncomfortable with the idea of giving away their decision-making rights. Fortunately, you don’t have to be worried about losing your abilities to make your own decisions when you create a power of attorney. Let’s take a look at some commonly asked questions.
What rights do I have after I create a power of attorney?
A person who makes a power of attorney is called a principal. The principal gives decision-making abilities to the chosen representative. That representative will be either a person or an organization, and will become known as your agent or attorney-in-fact.
After creating the power of attorney and passing on decision-making abilities to your agent, you retain the right to revoke those powers at any time and for any reason. As long as a principal is mentally competent, that principle can terminate the agent’s authority at any time.
What if I don’t want my agent to make decisions until something happens to me?
Some people create powers of attorney that only take effect after the principal has become unconscious, seriously injured, or otherwise incapacitated. With these “springing” powers of attorney, you grant your agent the ability to step in to manage your affairs once you are no longer able to do so. If and when you regain your ability to make decisions, you can then terminate the agent’s ability to act on your behalf. This will effectively return all decision-making rights to you.
What if I don’t make powers of attorney?
You are never legally obligated to create any type of power of attorney document in the state of California, or anywhere else. If you choose to make a power of attorney, you take control of your affairs by choosing not only who will represent your interests, but also by determining under what limitations your agent will act.
If you choose not to create a power of attorney, there may come a time when you lose your ability to make choices. If you become incapacitated and need someone who will make decisions on your behalf, you will lack the ability to appoint a representative. In such situations, it will fall to a court in a conservatorship proceeding to determine who your representative should be. When this happens, you will have no control over who the court selects.
Powers of attorney are powerful tools. It is important to carefully select your designated agent.