We all wish we had some sort of super power, don't we? When we were kids we pretended to have super powers on the playground during recess - invisibility, superhuman strength, x-ray vision.
But that was all pretend, wasn't it? Just play acting?
Well, maybe not. The law actually gives us something that's akin to a super power. And that's the right to bestow on someone else the power of attorney.
Although a power of attorney can be a relatively simple and inexpensive legal document, it is a powerful tool that gives another person the authority to make legal, financial and medical decisions for you should you ever become incapacitated.
For example, depending on the terms within your power of attorney, the person you designate may have the right to handle your finances, exercise stock rights in your name, and buy, manage or sell real estate on your behalf.
Types of powers of attorney
There are several different types of power of attorney that can be used to accomplish different purposes.
- General - A general power of attorney gives another person the unfettered power to act on your behalf. In essence, it gives your agent the same rights and powers you have yourself.
- Limited - A limited power of attorney gives someone else the power to act on your behalf for a limited purpose. It typically ends at a predetermined time or upon the happening of a specific event.
- Durable - Although the scope of a durable power of attorney can be limited or general, it remains effective even if you become incompetent or unable to attend to matters on your own.
- Springing - A springing power of attorney only becomes effective upon the onset of a particular condition (e.g., incapacitation) or the arrival of a predetermined date.
- Health care - While durable and springing powers of attorney are good for financial and legal matters, a health care power of attorney is used to grant medical decision-making authority. This is somewhat different than a living will, which spells out your preferences for whether you should receive life-sustaining care and is generally only applicable in end-of-life situations.
Granting someone a (super) power of attorney is an important part of planning your estate. In fact, it is one of the most important legal documents you can have. Without it, decisions about how to handle your finances and tackle health care issues might require court intervention.
Ask your estate planning attorney about which power of attorney is right for you. Grant someone you trust a super power today!