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What is a Power of Attorney?
by Keri Henley, GJK Attorney

February 6, 2024

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone to serve as your agent and act or make decisions on your behalf.  Although the word attorney is used in the name of the document, your agent does not have to be an actual attorney (that is, an attorney at law).  In fact, many people select a spouse, child, or other trusted loved one to serve as their agent. It should be someone you trust.

You can grant your agent broad authority to manage your finances and property, or you can give them limited authority to perform only certain actions.  You can also specify when the power of authority will be effective.  A durable Power of Attorney is effective from the time it is signed until your death, while a non-durable Power of Attorney is only effective for a specified time-period. 

Having a Power of Attorney in place can give you peace of mind.  If you are incapacitated, even temporarily, by illness or injury, your agent could step in to pay your bills, manage your finances, or ensure that your home and property are protected.  You can also grant your agent authority to make medical decisions on your behalf.

Certainly, as we grow older, it is important to have someone we can trust to assist us should we become unable to manage our own affairs. Of course, giving another person the authority to make financial, medical, and/or legal decisions for you is a big deal.  It can have far reaching impacts on your well-being. 

Depending on your state, the Power of Attorney may need to be filed in public records to be effective.  Depending on the purpose, financial institutions and other businesses may require a non-durable Power of Attorney to be reviewed and updated regularly, often annually.  It is best to consult an attorney to discuss your options and have them draft the Power of Attorney that offers the type of protection that is right for you.

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