There are a number of circumstances in the course of daily life when you may have need of a Power of Attorney, including when you need to sell a car or your home. Generally speaking, the paperwork that is signed in these types of scenarios is limited to those specific needs, and is referred to as a “limited” Power of Attorney. Though these documents are useful, they do not have the same reach as a General Durable Power of Attorney, which is an extremely important document to have in situations where a person has lost the capacity to act on their own behalf. As knowledgeable and compassionate South Jersey attorneys, the estate planning lawyers at Bratton Scott believe that having a Durable Power of Attorney in place is one of the most important things that you can do to ensure that somebody whose judgment you trust is making decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so.
There are two people named in a Power of Attorney document – the Principal, which is the person who is granting the other person permission to make decisions on their behalf, and the Attorney-in-Fact, which is the person who is being given that power. When a Power of Attorney is written, it provides the Attorney-in-Fact with the right to do whatever legal acts on behalf of the Principal that are documented within its language, and it is up to the Principal to determine how narrow or broad those abilities are. When a person is looking to have a Power of Attorney drawn up, they generally know what their goals are, and their estate planning attorney can write the document to reflect their wishes. A “General” Power of Attorney gives the Attorney-in-Fact the greatest range of powers, which may include making health care decisions, doing financial transactions, or signing legal documents for them.
If you believe that you already have a Power of Attorney that was drawn up in the past, it is important to review that document to determine whether it was signed for a limited purpose, and whether or not the power granted was durable. In many cases, a Power of Attorney may terminate when the Principal is no longer able to act on their own behalf, making the document useless should a person be stricken with Alzheimer’s disease, a stroke, or in some other way incapacitated. This is why it is important to have a Durable Power of Attorney in place, which specifically mentioned the Principal’s incapacity.
In order to be valid, a Durable Power of Attorney must be signed by the Principal when they are competent and can understand what they are signing. If you are interested in ensuring that you have a trusted person in place to make decisions for you in the future, and would like to have a Durable Power of Attorney drawn up, contact the South Jersey estate planning lawyers at Bratton Scott. We can guide you through the process and make sure that all of your future needs are addressed.
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