Power of Attorney: what is it?

Power of Attorney: what is it? This legal document allows you to appoint someone to act on your behalf, but not against your competent wishes.

What does it really do, and why should that be so important.

What does a Power of Attorney document provide?

In a Power of Attorney document, you appoint someone to act on your behalf for a great number of areas. While most people use the term “power of attorney” for someone they name, the appointed person is actually your “attorney in fact.” This trusted person can deal on your behalf with a number of business and financial areas, once appointed.

  • banking or credit union business;
  • utility accounts;
  • taxes and insurance;
  • lawsuits;
  • real estate or lease management, sales;
  • post office business; and
  • goods or services contracts.

The above list is not exhaustive. It only shows some of the variety. If you grant a medical power of attorney, you can authorize your attorney in fact to make medical treatment decisions, access records, and give or withhold consent.

So, why is a Power of Attorney document so important?

As an adult, if you are absent, unconscious or impaired, no one may have inherent legal authority to act on your behalf. Do you doubt this? Well, try contracting with a company or a bank on behalf of someone else — even your spouse. They are not likely to recognize your authority without the person’s signature or without you being appointed.

Here is where this authority becomes effective, efficient and even vital. Perhaps you have heard stories of people who have either been in some kind of accident. No doubt, dementia or Alzheimer’s finds too many of us and our family. If they reach the point where they no longer have legal capacity, it is, unfortunately, too late for them to appoint an attorney in fact. They can no longer select someone to act on their behalf for financial and medical issues. Without legal capacity, they just cannot make this appointment.

How does someone get authority if there is no Power of Attorney document signed?

So, without the signed Power of Attorney document, this may be an adult for whom no one has authority to act. To get business/financial and medical authority, even a spouse is going to need to go to court. In Kansas, one would file what are called Guardianship and Conservator proceedings. They give notice to close family and seek to be appointed by the Court. They seek appointments as Guardian (to care for the person and medical needs of their loved one) and as Conservator (to care for the assets and financial needs).

First, the Court must determine that the loved one is an adult with an impairment. Then, the Court must weigh whether the petitioner is a fit person to act in this capacity. If the findings are both positive on those questions, the petitioner may be appointed. A Court Order memorializes their authority. And, they may need to submit plans for acting in both roles. Then, they will likely have to file reports with the Court every year for both the guardian and the conservator roles.

Power of Attorney: what is it? This document appoints someone you trust to act on your behalf. Simply put, this signed document can save a lot of trouble. Surely, signing it is much, much less daunting than going through the Court for an appointment. The Power of Attorney can save your family weeks and expenses seeking to have someone granted authority to act on your behalf.

I hope this helps you and your family.

Contact me if I can help you further.

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