Imagine that an unexpected emergency leaves you unable to communicate or make important decisions. Who takes charge? How will your bills get paid? Without a power of attorney, the answers to these questions can become unnecessarily complex and challenging.
What Is a Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone the authority to make certain decisions on another person’s behalf. The person who grants this authority is called the principal. The person who receives the power to act is called the agent or attorney-in-fact.
A power of attorney document specifies what types of decisions the agent can make for the principal. This could include financial, medical, and real estate decisions.
When the principal dies, the power of attorney is automatically revoked unless it is a medical power of attorney that remains in effect briefly after death for anatomical donations, autopsy, or disposition decisions.
A power of attorney can be useful if someone cannot make decisions for themselves or needs help handling certain affairs. It allows the agent to make decisions according to the principal’s wishes without the need for the principal’s direct involvement in each choice.
What Does a Power of Attorney Cover?
A power of attorney can cover a wide range of responsibilities and tasks, depending on the principal’s desires. Common issues a power of attorney might address include the following:
- Financial Powers: Authority to handle financial transactions such as accessing bank accounts, paying bills, managing investments, buying or selling property, and filing taxes
- Medical Powers: Ability to make health care decisions on the principal’s behalf, decide on medical treatments, choose health care providers, and access medical records
- Real Estate Powers: Permission to buy, sell, and manage properties and pay property taxes
- Personal and Family Maintenance: Authority to hire domestic help and ensure family members receive schooling or other necessary support
- Business Operations: Power to operate a business, enter into contracts, and buy or sell interests
- Legal Actions and Claims: Ability to sue on the principal’s behalf, defend against lawsuits, and settle legal claims
- General Authority: Broad authority to act on almost any task or decision for the principal
What Happens If I Get Incapacitated Without a Power of Attorney in Place?
You and your loved ones could encounter considerable difficulties if you become unable to make decisions for yourself due to illness, injury, or mental decline. Without an appointed agent with legal authority to act on your behalf, the resulting confusion could throw your finances, healthcare, and other affairs into chaos.
For starters, your family might need to go to court to establish legal guardianship or conservatorship over you. This could involve a formal legal process that requires hearings, doctor’s examinations, and court approval. It can quickly become time-consuming, expensive, and acrimonious.
In the meantime, your bills might go unpaid. You could experience delays in medical care. Other parties might mismanage your assets. Your wishes regarding health care and property could go ignored. Banks and businesses might refuse access to your accounts and personal information.
Having a valid power of attorney in place allows you to sidestep these potential headaches. It allows your loved ones to handle your affairs promptly and serve your best interests if you can’t do so yourself.
Contact an Estate Planning Lawyer Today
Don’t leave your future to chance. Work with the knowledgeable Texas estate planning team at Hargrave Law, PC to thoughtfully prepare powers of attorney for every eventuality. Contact us for a consultation now and take the first step toward peace of mind.