There are times when individuals wish to delegate to others the ability to take actions for them while they are away or otherwise unable to take these actions or make decisions for themselves. A power of attorney is a document that allows the individual to appoint a person or group of people to act on their behalf. Some powers of attorney become effective as soon as they are signed whereas others, known as “springing powers of attorney” depend upon some future event occurring before they become effective. This event generally occurs when the person who signs the power of attorney becomes incompetent or incapacitated but this future event may depend on their absence or other conditions. Generally, Powers of attorney may be revoked at any time by the grantor.
Powers of attorney usually address one of two areas. The first involves the property, financial affairs or legal affairs of the granting individual. In many cases they involve estate planning so that the person may designate who may be responsible for making financial decisions, managing property, and paying bills once the grantor becomes unable to do so. The reason the power of attorney “may” designate as opposed to “shall” designate is that the person named as the attorney-in-fact may decline the appointment. Envisioning this circumstance, many powers of attorney list an alternative person should the original designee be unable or unwilling to accept the appointment. It is important to draft a power of attorney in such a way to limit or expand the powers, duties and responsibilities of the attorney-in-fact to match the wishes of the grantor. Specific powers to sell property, borrow money and the like should be designated to avoid confusion and to ensure that the grantor’s wishes are properly carried out. These types of powers of attorney may also be very narrowly drawn to address a specific event. In my practice, I see this phenomenon very often when married couples or groups of people buy property and one of the individuals is unable to attend the closing. In that case, he or she may designate one of the other persons as his or her attorney-in-fact for that transaction only.
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