A power of attorney is a legal document that authorizes an agent identified in that instrument to act on behalf of the grantor. There are two basic types of powers of attorney widely used in the United States. A durable power of attorney for health care assigns an agent to make medical decisions when the grantor is unable to do so on her own. A financial power of attorney authorizes an agent to act on behalf of the grantor in regard to dealing with certain financial matters. Although there are some minor differences, the laws in each state in the country set out the general parameters for exercising authority through a power of attorney.
Obtain a duly executed power of attorney. In order for a power of attorney to be valid and effective, the grantor must sign the instrument in front of a notary public. The notary must stamp the document and execute it, attesting to its authenticity.
Provide a representative of a financial institution (or other individual involved in a business transaction with the grantor) the original financial power of attorney to demonstrate your authority. Armed with the power of attorney, you can transact necessary business and financial transactions on behalf of the grantor. The financial institution or other business needs to make a copy of the original power of attorney for its records.
Undertake all necessary financial or business transactions that are in the best interests of the grantor.
Bring the original durable power of attorney for health care to the hospital, doctor or other medical center at which the grantor is located. The authority under the durable power of attorney for health care becomes effective only when the grantor is incapacitated and unable to make his own medical decisions. Typically, the medical issue is whether or not extraordinary means should be employed to keep the grantor alive.
Confirm that the hospital or other medical provider makes a copy of the original durable power of attorney.
Make medical decisions, which may include whether or not life support is used, on behalf of the grantor. Your objective is to make decisions based on the grantor's previously expressed wishes.
- Make sure you thoroughly document any actions you take on behalf of a grantor when exercising authority under the power of attorney. If any person ever questions your actions, you are best protected by having contemporaneous documentation to back up and support your decisions and activities.
- Keep the original power of attorney in a secure location, such as a bank safe-deposit box. A copy of a power of attorney is not sufficient to demonstrate your authority.
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