In estate planning, a power of attorney is a written legal document that offers power and authority to another person over specific things on your behalf. It allows another person to “step into your shoes” with tasks that can be either very general or extremely specific. In order to be considered a power of attorney, however, the document must have specific provisions by law. Many people are unaware of how a power of attorney can benefit them in their estate planning, mainly because they believe in some common misconceptions relating to it.
What Are These Misconceptions Relating to a Power of Attorney?
- You can sign a power of attorney if you are incompetent: Once your loved one has lost physical or mental competence (this competency level must be determined by a physician), they are legally prohibited from signing any legal documents, including a power of attorney or living trust. This is a common misconception because many people will just try to get what they need accomplished quickly, instead of first examining the legal competence of the person signing the necessary forms.
- You can find and sign a power of attorney on the Internet: You can find this kind of estate planning document on the Internet, but that doesn’t mean you should. The whole purpose of a power of attorney is to cater to your specific circumstances. Unfortunately, power of attorney documents from the Internet can be outdated, lack any supervising authority, and can be too vague and ambiguous to properly represent your situation.
- A power of attorney gives the agent permission to do whatever they want with your estate: The agent under a power of attorney has an overriding obligation (also known as a fiduciary obligation) to make decisions that are in the best interests of the person that signed the document. Just because the agent has the power to act doesn’t mean they have the right to act under any circumstances.
- There is only one standard power of attorney: There are actually two main types of powers of attorney. A general power of attorney will give all powers to the agent, whereas a limited or special power of attorney gives less than all powers. This will all still depend on what the signer of the documents considers powers that should or shouldn’t be given, so it’s important that the agent checks the document for specifics.
- A power of attorney can continue beyond death: All powers of attorney must terminate when the signer passes away. This means that once a person has passed away, the power given to the agent under the power of attorney also terminates.
If you are interested in signing a power of attorney, or you would like more information about the estate planning process, our Austin estate planning attorneys can assist you. We help Texan citizens in the Pflugerville and Austin area, so contact Sheehan Law PLLC today for an appointment.