Power of Attorney 101
We often hear the word “power of attorney” in TV shows and read them in books. The phrase seems to be a moot point already. After all, what other power do attorneys need than the legal ones, given to them when they became lawyers? What exactly is a power of attorney?
Power of attorney does not refer to a “power” intrinsic to the lawyer or attorney. It is actually given to a person even if he or she is not a lawyer. Still, many of those who are given the power of attorney are lawyers, often family lawyers who are trusted to deal with a wide range of things. When you are given the power of attorney, a person is authorizing you to act on their behalf in personal and business matters that have legal issues. They can sign your documents and decide for you while you are away or incapable of making decisions yourself.
Although the word attorney is a synonym to a lawyer, in United States, it is mostly used to refer to these people who are given the power of attorney. They are also called agents because they also serve as liaison officers and go-between or more formally, attorney-in-fact because they are only licensed by a common person.
Because it can have legal consequences, the transfer of power or the authorizing is written as a legal contract, which is shown to people before the “attorney-in-fact” can proceed with his dealings on behalf of the client or the principal. Often, when the attorney-in-fact is being paid, a separate contract is drafted for the payment and is not shown to other people. A principal must of course be of a good mental state when giving the power of attorney.
Principals who are physically injured, sick or mentally unhealthy are deemed incapable of giving power of attorneys. When power of attorneys are given under these circumstances, all the legal documents the “agent” signs or agrees to will not be honored in court and will be deemed ineffective. Also, the scope of the power of attorney will also become ineffective when the principal dies or becomes incapacitated, meaning if they suddenly suffer from an illness, physical or mental.
Although some countries accept an oral power of attorney, in the United States, the written contract is still important. Some states also accept the electronic power of attorney as long as the document is proven legitimate and legal. There are different kinds of power of attorney given to people. It may be general or special, which is limited to only one type of dealing or issue. It all depends on the principal. There is also the scope of the power of attorney. Often, it only takes effect within a certain period of time.
As mentioned before, it will not be valid when the principal dies or falls ill unless it is stated in the contract that the power of attorney will continue when illness occurs. This is called the durable power of attorney. When the principal dies, the power of attorney will automatically be ineffective.
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