The responsibilities of power of attorney vary according to the situation. A grant of power of attorney legally gives a person the authority to perform acts for another person in business dealings, legal matters and other issues. The person who is authorizing the other individual to act on his behalf is known as the principal. Other names are donor or grantor. The individual who receives the power to do something on the part of another person is called the agent, or attorney-in-fact. It is not necessary for the person to be a lawyer.
Power of attorney is used for a wide variety of reasons. The act of granting someone a power of attorney in no way means that you are incapable of making personal decisions. It is simply a legal way of allowing the individual to act for you if needed. When people go out of the country for an extended period of time, or are bedridden, they often bestow power of attorney on a son, daughter or close friend.
When the power of attorney is no longer required, it can be revoked with a document called the Revocation of Power of Attorney. There are a few types of responsibilities of power of attorney: general, special, health care and durable.
The responsibilities of the general power of attorney are far reaching. The authority may cover matters such as conducting banking transactions, accessing safety deposit boxes, purchasing and selling real estate or purchasing life insurance. The principal may also require the agent to enter into contractual agreements, handle government benefit issues, file federal tax returns or make transfers to irrevocable trusts. The agent is basically authorized to oversee and act on a range of affairs in the principal's absence.
Unlike the general power of attorney, special power of attorney gives the agent very limited responsibilities. She only has the authority to act on the principal's behalf in regard to certain acts. For example, if the principal is leaving the country for an extended period of time, he may grant his sister the power to make deposits to his bank account and pay certain bills in his absence. Authorization can be used for any number of reasons; common uses are: to handle business or financial transactions, act on estate planning issues or collect debts. Typically, the power is granted only for a short period of time to complete a specific act.
The responsibilities of power of attorney are frequently used for people who want an agent available to make decisions regarding their health care. The health care power of attorney is useful if a principal is under anesthesia while undergoing surgery, rendered comatose or mentally incompetent. The principal's voice can still be heard and her wishes and preferences regarding her health care can be carried out as she desires. Some states allow the principal to express her choice concerning life-sustaining procedures. A provision of the health care power of attorney is more effective than the living will, which only permits a person to express her "wish" regarding life-sustaining procedures
People who use the durable power of attorney are essentially creating a general, special or health care power of attorney document that contains a durability language. This means the agent can make decisions for the principal if he should become mentally incompetent due to a debilitating accident or medical reasons. Generally, there is a provision that states that the principal has to be certified as mentally incapacitated for the power to go into effect. If you do not have a durable power of attorney, if you are unable to make decisions on your behalf, a guardian or conservator can be appointed by the courts.