What are the duties of power of attorney?

When an individual is appointed as a power of attorney, there are various duties that person may be called upon to perform.

This article explains what a power of attorney is, the various duties a person appointed with power of attorney may possess, who can serve as an agent, how to create a power of attorney and alternatives to a power of attorney.

What is a Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a written legal document in which an individual appoints another individual to perform certain specified tasks on his or her behalf. The power of attorney indicates which tasks the appointed person, known as an "agent," may perform. The tasks the agent may perform vary and may be broad or limited. Generally, most jurisdictions permit powers of attorney to be effective either upon their proper legal execution, or upon the incapacity of the person who made the power of attorney.

Types of Powers an Agent May Receive

There is a wide array of powers an agent may receive through the use of a power of attorney. The power of attorney may include the right to handle the following: Banking transactions, real estate transactions, tax matters, legal matters, financial matters, military matters, governmental benefits matters, insurance matters, and business matters. It is important to note that a power of attorney may include other powers not specified in this article; most jurisdictions allow a power of attorney to include specific powers.

In addition, while there are some jurisdictions which include medical decision-making in the power of attorney, there are many jurisdictions which do not permit medical decision-making as a power of attorney. In such jurisdictions, there are other documents which specifically apply to such matters, such as a health care proxy.

Who Can Serve as an Agent

An agent can be any person that the individual creating the power of attorney designates, so long as that person is over age 18 and is competent. The agent could be a family member or a friend, or the agent could be an attorney. Regardless of the person selected as the agent, it is necessary that the person is trustworthy, has an intimate understanding of your desires with respect to the duties the agent will perform, and will function as your agent in good faith.

How to Create a Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is created by a statutorily-proscribed method; therefore, it is crucial to determine the requirements of one's particular jurisdiction. It may be possible to obtain a power of attorney form from a legal supply store or even online. However, one must be careful to ensure that these forms are updated to include any and all recent revisions to the applicable law. In addition, one must complete the document in accordance to the legal specifications of the jurisdiction such that the document is legally proper and binding.

Alternatives to Powers of Attorney

In the event a person does not want to utilise a power of attorney, there may be other legal mechanisms to allow for similar benefits. Most jurisdictions provide for legal guardianships or legal conservatorships. A guardianship is a legal proceeding in which an individual is appointed as a guardian to oversee a person's decisions, while a conservatorship is a legal proceeding in which an individual is appointed as a guardian to oversee a person's property. These alternatives may be more restrictive and should only be utilised when appropriate. It is essential to consult with an attorney in one's particular jurisdiction to review one's options and determine which option would be best for one's particular situation.