Estate Planning 101: What is a Power of Attorney?

If you’re new to estate planning, it’s important to take some time to learn about some of the estate planning tools that are at your disposal. Most people use a combination of estate planning tools to make arrangements for the future. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you better understand your options and decide what works best for you based on your unique life situation. Today, we’re focusing our blog post on one of the most useful tools available for planning for the future: the power of attorney.

What is a power of attorney?

A power of attorney is a legally binding fiduciary relationship between two people. The person who creates the power of attorney is called the principal. The principal gives a trusted person the authority to handle his or her affairs on his or her behalf. The second person is referred to as the agent or the attorney-in-fact.

Are there different types of powers of attorney?

Yes! There are healthcare powers of attorney, which grant the agent the authority to make decisions regarding the principal’s medical care. There are general powers attorney, which grant the agent the authority to make financial decisions on the principal’s behalf, and finally there are limited powers of attorney, which allow the principal the ability to choose which specific authority they want to grant the agent.

I’ve heard the phrase durable power of attorney thrown around a lot. What’s that?

Any of the above types of powers of attorney can be made durable. This will mean that they continue to be valid if the principal becomes incapacitated — for example if they are in a coma and cannot express their wishes.

So does that mean regular powers of attorney become invalid when the principal loses capacity?

That’s right. Regular powers of attorney end when the principal revokes them, when the principal becomes incapacitated, or at the expiration date that was set at creation.

Who can teach me more about powers of attorney and help me craft an estate plan that’s right for me?

If you are ready to create an estate plan that protects you, your assets, and your loved ones for the future, the Piper McCracken team is here to help. We have extensive estate planning experience and we’re eager to work with you. Contact us today!

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Piper McCracken, PLLC

Our firm began as a belief that things could be done better—in both the practice of law and in the working lives of lawyers. Founding partners, Heather Piper and Joanna McCracken, met while working as attorneys at a large, regional firm. They honed their skills as litigators on a broad range of cases from medical malpractice and product liability, to real estate and entertainment law. But it was their mutual desire to help people on a more personal level that inspired them to begin a family law practice.

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