Durable Power of Attorney

This is a key document which gives a trusted person the tools to assist someone who is no longer able to handle his or her daily affairs, such as banking, bill paying, collecting income or debts, presenting a claim or signing a contract.

The representative named in this document used to be known as “the attorney-in-fact” although that person was not necessarily really an attorney—it’s just a legal term. After a change in the law in 2011, the representative named in the document is now simply referred to as the “agent”. It’s always best to have, in addition to the primary agent named in this document, at least one or two back-up persons to serve “just in case”.

The “principal” or the one signing this document must be able to understand the basic purpose of the document and should only entrust the authority to someone they know, trust and who has no personal motive to serve nor any conflicts of interest. The Durable Power of attorney is only good so long as the person who signed it is alive or until he or she revokes it.

Sometimes, the amount of assistance needed to manage one’s assets, health or safety goes beyond what can be accomplished through a Durable Power of Attorney or other Advance Directive. Also, if an individual’s ability to understand and appreciate the meaning of these documents is no longer present, having the person sign a Durable Power of Attorney or Designation of Health Care Surrogate is no longer legally appropriate. In such circumstances, a legal guardianship may be the only option.

An Elder Law attorney can help guide you through the legal process of guardianship so that the health, safety and assets of the individual can be protected. Contact us for more information.