What to Do if You’ve Been Given the Power of Attorney Over a Loved One

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document granting one person (called an “agent” or “attorney-in-fact”) the authority to act on behalf of another person (known as the principal). The agent has broad legal or limited authority to make decisions about financial and legal matters on the principal’s behalf. This legal arrangement is used when the principal cannot make decisions due to illness, disability, or absence. A power of attorney can also be a planning tool for managing another person’s property and finances if they become incapacitated. The POA grants the agent authority to make the following decisions.

Health Care Power of Attorney

This type of POA grants the agent the power to make health-related decisions for the principal. The agent makes decisions regarding medical treatments, chooses a healthcare provider, accepts or refuses available treatments, and accesses medical records. The HCPOA also allows individuals to add specific requests like organ donation, life-sustaining treatments such as resuscitation or artificial ventilation, and end-of-life care.

Financial Power of Attorney

An agent with a financial POA has the authority to manage the principal’s assets, pay bills, open and close bank accounts, and collect benefits and investments. They can also apply for government programs and services, buy or sell real estate, and sign documents on behalf of the principal. The agent is also mandated to change or make beneficiary designations as directed by the principal.

General Power of Attorney

This type of POA confers broad powers to the agent, allowing them to take almost any action that does not violate the law on behalf of the principal. It includes signing documents, buying and selling assets, voting on behalf of the principal in elections, and making medical decisions. The document outlines the powers granted to the agent and any restrictions or limitations on their authority. Certain decisions or actions may require a special power of attorney, depending on state law.

Limited Power of Attorney

A “limited” power of attorney limits the scope of the legal authority granted by the principal. The limits may be geographical, meaning the agent does not have authority beyond a specified geographical area. It can also include an expiration date, after which all powers granted to the agent becomes null and void.

If you’ve been given the POA over someone, you should be responsible, reliable, and trustworthy. All decisions should be in the best interests of the principal. Stay informed about changing laws and practices in each area to help you make sound decisions. You should also update the POA to reflect changes in the principal’s circumstances or wishes.