A power of attorney is a legally binding document that grants one person's legal rights to another. The duration, scope and powers granted by the document are dependent on how it is written. The person granting the rights is referred to as the principal, the one receiving the rights is referred to as the agent.
A power of attorney is designed to grant either specific or general rights to an agent, so she can act on behalf of the principal. The power of attorney duplicates some or all of the principle's rights. Simply stated, it's like giving a trusted friend an extra set of keys to your house--the parts of the house she has access to depends on the agreement.
No general limitations exist on who can serve as an agent for a principal. There is no requirement or qualifications other than being chosen by the principal, and the agreement of the agent to act for that purpose. For instance, criminal records and legal training are irrelevant as to whether someone is qualified to act as an agent.
Types of power of attorney:
Limited: limited in scope, duration, or both.
General: duplicates all rights of the principal and grants them to the agent.
Durable: survives mental incapacity by the principal.
Springing: grants limited or general power upon a specific event occurring.
A power of attorney may be terminated in many ways. The most common method is the principal terminating the agent's powers, an option open to a principal at any time. A power of attorney may also terminate automatically if the principal either dies or is mentally incapacitated.
A medical or financial power of attorney should always be done separately from any other power of attorney documents. This allows for clear instructions as to management of the principal's finances, health and other assets free from of entanglement and confusion.
Power of attorney documents are very common and easily accessible. Forms are available online, and are available free or for a fee if you require extra assistance.