Answers from AARP
What is a durable power of attorney?
A power of attorney gives another person (agent or attorney-in-fact) legal authority to manage the principalís affairs. To be "durable" the power of attorney must contain specific language indicating the principalís intent for the agent to act on behalf of the principal if the principal becomes incapacitated. Without that language, a power of attorney becomes a void document upon the principalís incapacity.
A durable power of attorney may be preferable to adding someoneís name to a bank account because the agent under a power of attorney does not acquire any legal interest in the principalís property.
What are the benefits of a durable power of attorney?
A durable power of attorney enables the individual to clearly define ahead of time how the individual wants his or her financial and/or health care treatment handled in the event the individual becomes disabled or incapacitated.
A durable power of attorney gives the individual the peace of mind that comes from knowing that the person he or she has chosen is the one who will be carrying out his or her affairs when he or she is no longer able to do so.
The person to whom the individual delegates power (the attorney-in-fact) is required to use the individualís money only for the individualís benefit.
The fact that the individual has executed a power of attorney does not interfere with the individualís right to handle matters for him or herself as long as he or she is able to do so.
A durable power of attorney can be helpful if the individual is temporarily hospitalized, or if the individual is traveling and will be away from home for some period of time, or if for any other reason the individual is unable to do his or her banking or pay his or her bills.
A durable power of attorney may be a better alternative than adding someoneís name to the individualís bank account, because with a power of attorney, another person can handle the individualís money without having an interest in it.
An attorney-in-fact can help the individual to get all the benefits he or she is entitled to by making claims and applications on his or her behalf.
A power of attorney can be revoked quickly.
It is not expensive to have a power of attorney prepared by an attorney.
If I give a power of attorney to another, do I give up the right to manage my own affairs?
No. As long as a principal remains legally competent, he or she retains full control over his or her affairs. The principal may allow the attorney-in-fact to act or not at the sole discretion of the principal. A principal may cancel the power of attorney at any time without requirement of a reason.