Powers of attorney are a lot like medical insurance. Many people don’t pay very close attention to the written document until we need to use the power of attorney or the insurance. It is when you begin have to use them that you discover what you don’t have. Then it may be too late.
When a power of attorney is executed, the agent automatically thinks that the agent can handle all affairs under the sun for the principal. This is not always a good assumption to make.
First of all, here are different types of written powers of attorney. There are powers of attorney for making decision over the person such as health care decisions, housing, and therapy decisions. There are other powers of attorney for the agent to make financial decisions regarding the estate. An agent may have a financial power of attorney and not a healthcare power of attorney.
Secondly, powers of attorney should be written very general to include any and all possible decisions. However, many powers of attorney are not general. Some give very limited authority for the agent to act on behalf of the principal. This can be very problematic for an agent to find out that they possess the right to make certain decisions and not other necessary decisions.
The best time to read the fine print is long before the power of attorney is used so that corrective action can be taken. Otherwise, time, money and effort may be required to file an interdiction legal proceeding to allow the agent to make all decisions.
If you have any questions about powers of attorney, you should contact an experienced estate attorney.
-Kent S. DeJean