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A power of attorney is a document that allows you to appoint a person or organization to handle your affairs while you're unavailable or unable to do so. The person or organization you appoint is referred to as an "Attorney-in-Fact" or "Agent."
General Power of Attorney - authorizes your Agent to act on your behalf in a variety of different situations.
Special Power of Attorney - authorizes your Agent to act on your behalf in specific situations only.
Health Care Power of Attorney - allows you to appoint someone to make health care decisions for you if you're incapacitated.
Durable" Power of Attorney -The general, special and health care powers of attorney can all be made "durable" by adding certain text to the document. This means that the document will remain in effect or take effect if you become mentally incompetent.
Revocation of Power of Attorney - allows you to revoke a power of attorney document.
General Power of Attorney
A general power of attorney is very broad and provides extensive powers to the person or organization you appoint as your agent. These powers usually include:
- Handling banking transactions
- Entering safety deposit boxes
- Handling transactions involving U.S. securities
- Buying and selling property
- Purchasing life insurance
- Settling claims
- Entering into contracts
- Exercising stock rights
- Buying, managing or selling real estate
- Filing tax returns
- Handling matters related to government benefits
You also have the option to grant the following additional powers to your Agent:
- Maintaining and operating business interests
- Employing professional assistance
- Making gifts
- Making transfers to revocable ("living") trusts
- Disclaiming interests (this has to do with estate planning strategies to avoid estate taxes)
A general power of attorney is usually used to allow your agent to handle all of your affairs during a period of time when you are unable to do so. For example, when you are traveling out of the state or country or when you are physically or mentally unable to handle your affairs. A general power of attorney is frequently included as part of an estate plan to make sure that you have covered the possibility that you might need someone to handle your financial affairs if you are unable to do so.
For all sorts of Power of Attorneys for Your Specific State and Circumstance check out:
Special Power of Attorney
A special power of attorney allows you to give only specific powers to the person or organization you appoint as your "Agent." For example, you could authorize someone to sell a car or a house for you.
Many people use the special power of attorney to authorize their Agent to do one or several of the following:
- Handle banking transactions
- Enter safety deposit boxes
- Handle transactions involving U.S. securities
- Collect debts
- Sell real estate
- Mortgage real estate
- Manage real estate
- Sell personal property
- Borrow money
- Manage business interests
- Handle government issues
- Make financial decisions
- Make estate planning decisions, including gifts
A special power of attorney is often used to allow your Agent to handle specific situations for you when you are unavailable or unable to do so. For example, you may be traveling outside the state or country, or you may be unable to handle a specific situation because of other commitments, or health reasons.
Health Care Power of Attorney
A Health Care Power of Attorney is a document that allows you to designate a person (an "Agent") who will have the authority to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unconscious, mentally incompetent, or otherwise unable to make such decisions. In many states you can also express your wishes regarding whether you wish to receive "life-sustaining procedures" if you become permanently comatose or terminally ill, in the Health Care Power of Attorney document. This will help your agent to know your wishes as he or she makes decisions for you. Even if you do include this in the document, you should still discuss the Health Care Power of Attorney with the Agent, expressing your wishes, values and preferences regarding health care.
A Health Care Power of Attorney is different from a Living Will because it allows you to appoint someone to make health care decisions for you. A Living Will only allows you to express your wishes concerning life-sustaining procedures.
Both Living Wills and Health Care Powers of Attorney are considered "Advance Health Care Directives" because you're giving instructions on what you'd want to happen in the event that you become unable to make health care decisions in the future. Some states also have a specific "Advance Health Care Directive" document that combines elements of a Health Care Power of Attorney and a Living Will. (For a more in-depth look at Advance Health Care Directives, Health Care Powers of Attorney and Living Wills, click here.)
Even if you have executed a Health Care Power of Attorney, you still have the right to give medical directions to physicians and other health care providers as long as you are able to do so. This document only becomes effective when you do not have the capacity to give, withdraw or withhold informed consent regarding your health care.
Durable Power of Attorney
A "durable" power of attorney