A power of attorney (POA) allows a person, the principal, to appoint a friend or relative to act as his agent. The POA can be in place for a one-time transaction or for the agent to permanently act on the principal’s behalf. Missouri law sets forth who can serve as someone’s agent, as well as the powers authorized by the POA.
A general POA is often used for one-time transactions. For example, a principal may authorize a person, usually his attorney, to sign real estate closing paperwork if he is unable to appear in person for the transfer. Prior to 1989, Missouri law required a general POA to include specific details regarding the transaction the POA was being used for. Since then, the law has been relaxed to allow more general use, but powers authorized by the principal should be set forth in writing to avoid abuse.
Most people who sign POAs do so in preparation for a possible incapacity as they age. Section 404.705 of the Missouri Revised Statutes states that a POA can remain in effect when the principal becomes incapacitated if it is a “durable” POA. The durable POA allows the agent to handle day-to-day transactions for the principal when the principal is unable to handle them himself. An agent can perform such tasks as banking, including paying bills, purchasing and selling real estate and operating the principal’s business.
While a durable POA authorizes many powers, Missouri law requires a principal to specifically authorize an agent to exercise certain powers. Such powers include changing beneficiaries to a trust, insurance policy or other property, creating or changing trusts or making any medical decisions.
Powers granted by a durable POA have limitations. Missouri law does not allow a principal to authorize an agent to make or alter a will or living will on the principal’s behalf at any time.
A principal can select any adult over the age of 18 to serve as his agent. The agent should be someone the principal trusts, and is usually a close friend or relative. Missouri law does not allow the principal to select his primary physician or any employee in a health care facility where the principal is a patient as his agent. A principal is also prohibited from naming any sitting judge, a court clerk or any employee of the Missouri Department of Social Services or Department of Mental Health, unless that person is the principal’s relative.