A general durable power of attorney (POA) is a vital legal document that everyone should be familiar with, especially as we start planning for the future.
In essence, a power of attorney is a document that allows someone else, referred to as the "agent" or "attorney-in-fact," to act on your behalf. This can include making financial or health decisions, conducting transactions, and even making gifts of your property. It's a very potent document and choosing the right person to act as your agent is a critical decision.
Now, a "general" power of attorney refers to the scope of powers granted to the agent. It means that the agent can perform virtually any act the principal, or person granting the power, could perform themselves. This can include paying bills, handling financial transactions, managing investments, and more.
On the other hand, the term "durable" refers to the duration of the power of attorney. Normally, a power of attorney would cease to be effective if the principal becomes incapacitated. However, a "durable" power of attorney remains in effect even if the principal becomes mentally or physically incapacitated.
Consider a scenario: imagine if you're John, a successful entrepreneur. You've amassed considerable wealth and assets over your lifetime. One day, you're diagnosed with an illness that, in its advanced stages, will leave you unable to make sound decisions.
Worried about the management of your affairs, you decide to establish a general durable power of attorney, appointing your trusted friend and business partner, Mary, as your agent. In the document, you grant Mary the power to handle all your affairs – from paying bills to managing your business operations and investments – in the event you're unable to do so yourself.
Unfortunately, your health worsens and you're no longer able to manage your affairs. But, thanks to the durable power of attorney, Mary steps in and manages everything on your behalf. She has the legal authority to pay your bills, handle your investments, and even make significant business decisions. Importantly, the power of attorney did not terminate when you became incapacitated – instead, it endured, or was "durable," hence the name.
This is the essence of a general durable power of attorney. It's a tool that provides peace of mind, ensuring that someone you trust can manage your affairs in case you're unable to do so. It's a key component of estate planning, and it's crucial to understand how it works and when to use it. However, because of the broad powers that a general durable POA grants, it's crucial to carefully consider who you designate as your agent.