What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is the power granted to one person to act in another’s name as if the person who granted the power took the action themselves. These powers may be limited to certain acts, or may be broadly written to allow the grantee of the power to direct anyone the grantor could have otherwise directed. In other words, if you give someone else this power, that other person can go around and do things, like withdraw money from your bank account or change your utilities, as if you had done it yourself.

How long can a Power of Attorney Last?

Historically a Power of Attorney terminates when the person granting the power no longer has the “capacity” (i.e. mental ability) to contract. That means that when needed most this power was no longer effective. Today our laws separated from historical tradition and now allow a “Durable” Power of Attorney. See Utah Code 75-5-501 et seq. Unless revoked, a durable power survives as long as you do. Because of the durable nature of this power, it can become a very useful tool in estate planning.

Even though a Durable Power of Attorney lasts as long as you are alive, there are some problems that make it less than perfect. Before acting on a Power of Attorney every person should inquire you are still alive, and whether or not the power has been revoked. Because this is very difficult, many people will not take an older Power of Attorney. Because of this, I recommend that you should get yours redrafted if it is older than five years old.

What do Powers of Attorney do?

Powers of Attorney add convenience to dealing with others when one is older and cannot easily care for their own business. Take the following true example. An elderly woman gave a Power of Attorney to her son. The power was general, but had a specific section that granted authority to communicate and make decisions on her behalf with Federal agencies pertaining to Medicare. The son was able to use this power to communicate with Medicare and ensure his mother was cared for the rest of her life.

How do I know if I need a Power of Attorney?

Just like Advance Health Care Directives, if you are breathing and over the age of 18, you should have a Power of Attorney prepared for your estate plan. The need for a Power of Attorney can arise suddenly and be unexpected. An auto accident or illness can quickly make you unable to handle your own affairs. Old age also comes to us eventually. Older people often need a little help with their routine daily lives and a Power of Attorney can help.

Powers of Attorney also make it convenient when out of state or out of the country. We routinely draft a Power of Attorney for outgoing missionaries so that their parents can handle the missionary’s bank accounts, file taxes, or do anything financially the missionary needs done. These powers, by their own terms, expire in two years, or upon the return of the missionary. We also draft Powers of Attorney for people going on vacation. When a vacation takes someone out of the country, the vacationer sometimes leaves someone with a Power of Attorney to handle their affairs for the weeks they will be gone. These powers expire at a designated time, or upon a named event.

Where should I go for a Power of Attorney?

There are many sources one can go for a Power of Attorney. The least expensive, and in our opinion, the least likely to be effective, is to draft your own. I have never seen a non-attorney draft themselves a Power of Attorney. It’s probably not very wise. A person can also go to various online retailers or even purchase forms from an office supply store. These often work okay, but may not fit your needs exactly. Lastly, you can visit an attorney. Attorney Paul R. Maxfield emphasizes estate planning in his practice at the Abbott Law Firm.

The Abbott Law Firm has been helping businesses and families prosper for 20 years. To see what Paul Maxfield can do to help you prosper, call for your estate planning consultation today. (801) 374-3000