You’ve, likely, heard the term, “power of attorney.” Powers of attorney are legal documents used to authorize someone else to act on your behalf, in some sort of legal situation. There are financial, health care, real estate, and business powers of attorney.
Financial powers of attorney are often called, “General Durable Power of Attorney.” “General” means that the document covers a myriad of situations, mainly financial and personal business oriented. “Durable” means that the power of attorney is affective even if you become legally incapacitated. (That’s the point.) And, “Power of Attorney” means that you’re authorizing someone else (i.e. your agent) to act on your behalf in the listed situations and to sign your name. They are, typically, effective immediately, unless they’re designed to be “springing.” Springing powers of attorney become when you need them; when you’re legally incapacitated.
Health care powers of attorney might also be called “Advance Health Care Directives.” Same thing. So long as you are able to make your own health care decisions, you continue to do so. But, if the time ever comes when you are unable to make those decisions yourself, your health care agent will be authorized to help you by providing informed consent.
Sometimes, business or real estate powers of attorney are used for a particular deal or real estate transactions. They are specific to the situation outlined in the power of attorney. For example, a businesswoman might be out of town when a deal is going to close, so she authorizes her business partner or another trusted individual to sign her name to the deal on her behalf. In real estate, a spouse may be unavailable for a closing on a house; she’ll sign a power of attorney authorizing her spouse to sign the closing documents on her behalf.
If you don’t have a power of attorney for health care and finances, which was professionally drafted and is up-to-date (i.e. less than three to five years old), consult with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney.