A power of attorney is a document that you can use to grant specific legal power to someone else. This person is then known as your agent. They’re able to take certain actions on your behalf that they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise in the event that you suffer incapacitation due to illness or injury.
For example, you may want someone else to be able to access your bank accounts so that they can help you with things like paying your taxes or simply paying the bills. Or you may want to know that someone else can make medical decisions for you, guaranteeing that this person can work with your medical team, if needed. Powers of attorney are often used as people grow older, although they can be relevant and necessary at any age.
When do they take effect?
A springing power of attorney “springs” – or takes effect – when someone becomes incapacitated. They can no longer make decisions or take these actions on their own behalf. Only then does the power of attorney become binding. For instance, an agent may be able to make medical decisions for someone who is in a coma or pay the bills for someone who has had a stroke and can no longer make their own financial decisions.
A power of attorney doesn’t actually change anything until it “springs.” You don’t have to worry that you are signing away all of your legal rights or giving someone else too much power over your life. A power of attorney defines what legal abilities they have and it also stipulates that they are not allowed to use those abilities until you need them.
As such, the best thing to do with a power of attorney is to set it up well in advance so that you are sure it’s ready if something unexpected happens. Seeking legal guidance is a good place to start.