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What are powers of attorney?

The future is unpredictable. We don't know when something can happen that might incapacitate us from being able to make important governing decisions about our estate. But what is in our control now is the ability to put certain things in place so that if we were to die or become incapacitated, our estate and other practical matters would be put into the hands of a trusted person that will become an agent.

Legal documents that allow a person's wishes to be set down in this way is called a power of attorney (POA). This blog will provide a brief overview into how powers of attorney work, the different types and the uses that they have.

General and special powers of attorney

General powers of attorney are documents that put full autonomy in the hands of the designated agent if the signing person was to die or become incapacitated or otherwise unavailable to make a decision. Special powers of attorney are used as a safety net, and it puts restrictions on how much power the agent has and specifies in more detail what actions the agent can take.

Powers of attorney can vary in details vastly. They may only be valid for extreme emergency situations, or only valid for a certain amount of time.

An important factor to be aware of when creating a power of attorney is the possibility that the trusted agent that you select now may not be deemed by yourself as trustworthy in years to come. Powers of attorney should be updated when necessary and not considered lightly. If you are thinking of creating a power of attorney, it is advisable to speak with a lawyer experienced in estate planning.

Source: US department of state, "Powers of attorney," accessed Sep. 22, 2017

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