“The Power of Attorney: Yes, you really need one,” by Sarah Ludlow McCurry
About the Author: Sarah is a wife, mom, lawyer and partner with the law firm of Winslow & McCurry, PLLC (www.wmmlegal.com). Sarah focuses her practice on civil matters, including small business representation and wills & estates.
After years of going to events a common question that always seems to pop up with both new and old friends is, as a lawyer – is there something out there that I need that I don’t know about. My answer is always the same – unequivocally a will and a power of attorney. Both topics are wide and vast – but today I will focus on my article on what a power of attorney is, how they work and touch on a few situations where they are helpful.
In legal terms, and according to Black’s Legal Dictionary, a power of attorney is “1. An instrument granting someone authority to act as agent or attorney-in-fact for the grantor.” In English, this means a written document that states you are giving another person (or persons) the right to act on your behalf. In general, this would be to make financial decisions – but this can also be about medical decisions as well.
There are also a number of different types of power of attorney. You can have a power of attorney that lapses if you are incapacitated – or you can have one that remains in effect during such a time. You can also have specific powers of attorney. For example, if you have one transaction that you want to grant your spouse or friend the right to act for you on – such as signing a contract for you while you are out of town – a power of attorney will give your agent the power necessary to act on your behalf.
So, the question remains, why is this document so important? The power of attorney is most important in times when you are incapacitated – when you can’t make your own financial decisions – a decision such as selling an asset to pay a medical bill – and your loved ones don’t have time to wait on the court’s to get an order granting them power over your finances. The power of attorney allows your trusted love one or friend to make those decisions for you that you simply cannot.
But a power of attorney is not only useful during the worst of times – as mentioned they can be very helpful during times where you may have to go out of town. What if work forces you to travel abroad three days before you are supposed to close on your dream home? Or if you and your hubby go out of town and leave your kids with your friends? With a power of attorney you can outline the financial decisions and medical decisions your friends can make if you are unavailable. (For more on this, see this article on my firm website, wmmlegal.com, from earlier this year)
The power of attorney is a very useful tool – in both bad and good times. I strongly suggest that everyone reach out to an attorney and discuss having one. Hopefully for the good times, but just in case, for the bad.
Disclaimer: The information in this post is for general reference only and is not intended as legal advice for any specific situation. You should consult a qualified, licensed attorney for actual guidance relating to each individual situation in which you are involved.