Powers of Attorney Print E-mail

z_episcopal_church_bordergap.pngPlanning for a person’s incapacity is one of the more urgent functions of estate planning. The estate planner has several devices available, including living trusts and conservatorships, but the one document that should always be in place is the power of attorney. In this way, a trusted person will be ready to act to handle one’s financial matters whenever it becomes necessary, and upon short notice if required.  However, once the principal loses capacity to execute the power of attorney, an important opportunity has been lost. This is true even though the power to act under the power of attorney would continue when that capacity is lost.

The “principal” is the person giving the power, and the person who can exercise it is the “agent” or “attorney-in-fact.”  (This latter term should not be confused with an “attorney at law,” who is licensed by the state to act as an attorney.  The “attorney-in-fact” need not be a licensed attorney.)

z_congregational_church_bordergap.pngA durable power of attorney is one that either comes into effect when the principal is incapacitated, or which goes into effect earlier and remains so when the incapacity occurs. The power of attorney will have specific wording to accomplish these goals.  When the purpose of the power of attorney is to enable the agent to execute a specific document or set of documents, such as those associated with the sale of a house, the grant of power is more likely to be nondurable. The principal does not contemplate incapacity, and such a power of attorney remains effective only so long as the principal remains personally capable of signing the document.




Images, from top: 

Episcopal Church, ca. 1915

Congregational Church, ca. 1910