A power of attorney is a legal way to have one person act on behalf of another. The power of attorney document gives someone the authority to act on your behalf on matters you list in the document. The power can be specific to a certain task or cover many duties, including financial and medical. The power can start immediately or only after some event occurs, such as if you become mentally incompetent. A power of attorney does not take away your right to act on your own behalf.
There are different types of powers of attorney. Each type has a different purpose and grants different levels of power to an agent.
An agent cannot transfer property, or act in any other way under a power of attorney, after the principal's death. To ensure your property is divided per your wishes upon your death, a trust, will, or other estate planning tool should be used. You should speak with an attorney specializing in estate planning to determine what technique is best suited for you.
You can revoke a power of attorney by giving written notice to the attorney-in-fact. You should also file a copy of the letter with the court revoking the power of attorney. It is a good idea to give notice to any banks, brokerages, or other places where the attorney-in-fact conducted normal business on your behalf.
If a power of attorney is durable, and you become incompetent, only the court can revoke it during the time you are incompetent. This could happen if a party petitions the court on your behalf, alleging the attorney-in-fact has violated their responsibilities.
If someone else takes care of your child for you, then a power of attorney can provide a way for the caretaker to provide medical consent and make educational decisions.
You retain full control over your affairs, even after you have signed a durable power of attorney. You can allow your agent to act or not at your discretion. You can also revoke the power of attorney at any time and for any reason.
You should think very carefully before granting a power of attorney to someone. A power of attorney can be very helpful in some situations. For instance, a durable power of attorney may be a better alternative than adding someone's name to your bank account, because the person you designate can handle your money without having a legal interest in it. It is not expensive to have a lawyer prepare a durable power of attorney, and it can be revoked quickly.