A power of attorney is a legal document granting power to another person to act on your behalf in certain legal or financial matters. Because a power of attorney is a document that gives the recipient many rights, most people choose to grant power of attorney to close friends or relatives. If you need to grant power of attorney to a relative, the following tips should provide some guidance.
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Decide who should be granted power of attorney. You should pick someone who you trust to act in your best interests and to handle all the duties and responsibilities associated with being your attorney-in-fact. Ask yourself which relative you trust the most with handling your affairs if you are incapacitated and which relative best understands your feelings and wishes.
Figure out the scope of the power of attorney. A power of attorney can be drafted to grant your agent to handle only one particular kind of transaction or it can be broad and give authority to make a variety of financial and legal decisions. Depending upon your state law, a power of attorney may also be written to become effective only upon event of your disability.
Draft a power of attorney document. Once you know which relative you want to grant power of attorney to and the extent of the power you want to grant, you're ready to prepare the document. There are many power of attorney forms available on the Internet to download. Check out the Internet Legal research group website (see Resources below) for examples of commonly used forms. Make sure to have the document witnessed and notarized.
Understand the rights conveyed by a power of attorney. A power of attorney gives someone else the right to spend your money, access your bank account, sell your property, enter into contracts on your behalf and initiate legal action. You have the right to have the power of attorney revoked if at any time you become uncomfortable with your chosen relative having these rights.
Tips and warnings
- You should consult with an experienced family law or estate attorney if you have any questions at all regarding granting power of attorney to a relative.
- Remember that a power of attorney is a serious document that gives another person substantial authority over your affairs. Never sign a power of attorney unless you fully understand the rights you are forfeiting and trust the relative to whom you are giving those rights.
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