Perhaps you want another person to act on your behalf for logistical reasons or as a protective measure because you're not comfortable making financial or healthcare decisions on your own. Whatever the reason, the state of Virginia helps residents to delegate their decision-making responsibilities using a document known as a power of attorney. With a POA, you can give a trusted friend or relative the authority to administer your affairs. The power can be as broad or specific as you need.
Why Use a Power of Attorney in Virginia?
A power of attorney is an official document that authorizes someone to act on your behalf if you are not able to act for yourself or if you no longer want to make your own decisions. You can use one to cover a temporary situation, for instance, if you're hospitalized and need someone to pay your bills. Or, you can use one to manage longer-term affairs, for example, if you are diagnosed with dementia and need someone to make financial, healthcare and end-of-life decisions on your behalf.
Different Types of Powers of Attorney
In Virginia, every power of attorney executed after July 1, 2010 automatically is a durable power of attorney. A durable POA remains in effect if you become unable to make your own decisions at any point in the future. If this is not your intention, and you only wish to give your agent the authority to act while you are mentally competent, then you must use a general power of attorney. This document is essentially the same as a durable power, but it contains language terminating the POA as soon as you lose the ability to make your own decisions.
Another option is the limited power of attorney, which authorizes your agent to perform only specified actions and nothing else. This power is useful if, for example, you are going to be out of the country during the closing of a real estate purchase and need someone to sign the closing documents on your behalf.
Virginia powers of attorney are effective immediately. However, you can create a springing power of attorney which goes into effect at a specified point in the future, for example, when you are admitted to a hospital or a residential care facility.
Start With a Template Document
The best way to make a power of attorney is to hire an attorney to prepare the document for you. Most private attorneys charge only a small fee for this service, or your local legal aid office may prepare a POA for you if you are eligible for legal aid. If you're going down the DIY route, it's wise to start with a template for the specific type of POA that you need, such as durable or limited. You can buy a fill-in-the-blanks form from a legal stationer's office or download a template online. State requirements differ, so make sure that your chosen template has been prepared under the current laws of Virginia.
Appoint an Agent
Write the name of the agent in the space provided. You can appoint any adult who lives either inside or outside of Virginia, but it's more convenient if your agent lives in the state. Be sure you trust your agent as you are giving her powers that potentially could be abused. You can name more than one agent. By Virginia law, each co-agent may exercise authority independently of the other co-agent, and each must act in your best interest at all times.
Describe the Powers
You can be as broad or as specific as you like when delegating powers. For example, you can give your agent the power to handle all financial transactions on your behalf or you can simply give him the specific power to pay bills from your bank account. Downloadable templates usually contain a list of the more usual types of transactions; simply check the ones you want to delegate.
Signing and Other Formalities
To establish a power of attorney in Virginia, you must be over the age of 18 and of sound mind, meaning you must understand what you're doing when you sign the document. You don't have to sign before a notary public, but it's wise to do so as your signature could be disputed if you don't. Banks and financial institutions are more likely to accept and honor a power of attorney that has been notarized.
- Virginia state contour against blurred USA flag image by Stasys Eidiejus from Fotolia.com