If you're going to be away from home, or you worry that you may not be able to take care of certain matters for yourself, then you may consider giving one or more people the power to make decisions on your behalf. In North Carolina, a power of attorney, or POA, allows someone you trust to do just that. Giving a power of attorney is relatively straightforward – the state has published statutory power of attorney forms that you can use to guide your drafting.
Choose the Right Type of Power of Attorney
North Carolina recognizes two basic types of powers of attorney: financial and health care. Both allow you, as the principal, to appoint someone else as an agent (also called an attorney in this context) to act on your behalf in a legal capacity. The financial POA is a broad power of attorney that permits your agent to legally make financial decisions on your behalf. For example, you can authorize your agent to invest your money in a certain way, sell real estate and manage your bank accounts and tax affairs.
A health care POA allows your agent to make health care decisions on your behalf. This includes making critical decisions concerning medical treatment and end-of-life care if you are no longer capable of making those decisions for yourself.
Choose an Agent Carefully
Your agent is legally obligated to protect you and your money, and to act for you when you can't act for yourself. An agent has to make some important decisions on your behalf, so it is essential that you choose someone you trust. Most people choose a family member to be their agent, but under North Carolina law, you can appoint any competent person over the age of 18. The only restriction is that you cannot appoint someone who provides health care for remuneration, such as your doctor, to be your healthcare agent.
Decide How Long the Power Will Last
North Carolina law provides you with the option of making a durable or a nondurable power of attorney. A durable POA simply means that the document stays in effect if you lose mental capacity in the future and are unable to handle matters on your own. If you don't make a durable POA and you lose capacity, your relatives would have to go to court to get authority to handle your affairs.
In contrast, a nondurable POA automatically ends if you become incapacitated. Most people use a nondurable POA for delegating a specific task to their agent, such as selling their home while they are away.
Create a POA in North Carolina
North Carolina recognizes typed or printed POAs that substantially meet the requirements of North Carolina law. A statutory North Carolina power of attorney form is a good place to start since this form complies with state law. Download the forms you need from the internet or visit your local courthouse, then follow the instructions on the form to fill in the blanks. You can have an attorney look over your POA to make sure it meets your individual needs and circumstances.
Take Care When Delegating Powers
An agent with a power of attorney can perform only the actions you've authorized them to do. The North Carolina POA form contains a long list of all the possible powers that you can give to your agent. Check all of the boxes to give your agent comprehensive power to manage your affairs or check only some of the boxes to limit the POA to only those matters checked and to exclude the rest.
Sign and Notarize
When you have completed a POA you're pleased with, read the form carefully for the signing procedure as your agents may need to have their signatures witnesed, depending on the type of POA. You will need take it to a notary public in North Carolina to have your signature witnessed. Sign and date the document in the notary's presence. If your POA is a durable POA, it must be recorded with the state Register of Deeds, but your agent does not need to record the POA until you become incapacitated.
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