When something is durable, it’s built to last. Tough. Resistant to pressure. Strong. Just the qualities you want in an important legal document like a durable general power of attorney.
A Powerful Legal Document.
A power of attorney is a legal instrument where one person authorizes another person (the agent) to act on their behalf. Sometimes the authorization is very broad. Other powers of attorney are very limited or apply only to a specific occasion. There are even documents with the specific purpose of authorizing someone to make medical decisions for you. Whether a power of attorney is general or durable is an extremely important distinction.
When is a Power of Attorney Durable?
Authorization to act granted by a general power of attorney ends when the principal, the person who signed the power of attorney, becomes incapacitated, disabled, or unable to communicate.
A durable power of attorney, however, remains in effect regardless of the principal’s capacity, or ability to make decisions.
Consequences of Signing a Power of Attorney That is Not Durable.
Let’s say Margie, a 55-year old woman, signs a general power of attorney as part of her estate plan. She authorizes her husband, George, to act on her behalf. The powers given to George take effect immediately and cover pretty much every financial decision Margie might have to make.
Unfortunately, the next year Margie receives serious brain injuries in an auto accident. She is no longer able to communicate in any meaningful way. Fortunately, her health care power of attorney authorizes George to make medical decisions for her. But as he begins the heavy task of working out their finances, he learned that the power of attorney is no longer in effect. It’s a general power of attorney, not a durable one. George is forced to hire an attorney and start a conservatorship proceeding.
Make Sure You’ve Signed the Right Power of Attorney.
If your estate plan hasn’t been reviewed for a while, or you’ve never taken that important step of making your plans, it’s time.
Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys and find out where you stand. Our phone number is 256-251-2137, or you may use the Contact Form on our website. We have offices in Anniston and Birmingham, but also assist clients in communities like Hoover, Vestavia Hills, Irondale, and Calera.