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Power Of Attorney Guide

A power of attorney is a convenient legal document used to authorize another person (known as an agent) to act on your behalf in matters of a medical, personal, business, and family, financial and of an important legal nature. For example, a power of attorney can be used by an elderly person to allow an adult child to handle banking and financial affairs.

The power of attorney form can be provided for a specific task, such as writing checks on a single bank account, or it can be written more broadly. To put it in plain terms, a note for covering the legal and financial affairs of an individual. You would normally seek the professional advice of say an accountant, doctor, dentist or lawyer when you require their services and especially their expertise that only trained professionals can supply. You could consider your legal needs much like you do your medical needs.

When to seek legal advice

Like at times when you can take care of small health issues with over-the-counter medicines and old home remedies. But there are other times when you need the professional skills of a medical physician or other medical specialists to assist you with a medical problem. The law works in a similar way. E.g. you'll need a qualified lawyer if a need arises to sue somebody, or if somebody goes and sues you; if you're signing a legal document especially a business contract, or if in the unlikely event you face criminal prosecution. You should always seek the professional advice of an experienced lawyer if you feel uncertain as to your legal position in a particular matter.

How to find a top lawyer?

One of the best ways to locate a good and qualified lawyer is to ask for a recommendation from say your friends, work mates, relatives, and even business associates. As well as asking for names and phone numbers, you should also ask them what type of legal problems they'd had in the past; and more importantly, were they satisfied with the services they received from the person who they recommended to you. Did the lawyer do what he or she promised to do for them? Did their lawyer return their e-mails and phone calls? Was the lawyers' fee reasonable or expensive? Another excellent avenue is to contact your local bar association for recommendations since many have lawyer referral lists by areas of practice. And to be included on these special lists, lawyers in most cases, have to show the bar association that they have sufficient experience in that particular area. Also, think about contacting any law schools in your local area, oftentimes they have lists themselves that provide many legal services.

The law is oftentimes especially complex. There are just too many different legal aspects of law for all lawyers to be able to cope with all problems. Some lawyers specialize in certain areas only, like criminal, family law, antitrust or multipart banking law. Others specialize in personal injury law. On the other hand, some lawyers are general practitioners and can handle a variety of legal problems. The best way to know the type of lawyer you need is to look at and identify the type of problem you have. It may be family law, estate planning, divorce, or business difficulties for example, and then you should try and find a lawyer who specializes in that kind of case. If you're not sure of the category your problem falls into, explain it to a lawyer and he or she can help you figure it out.

What if your agent does not carry out your wishes?

If in the unlikely event that does occur then it will depend on the terms of the power of attorney form and your state's laws. In most cases, the power of attorney will include a legal provision pointing out that the agent is not responsible for any losses which may result from an honest decision he or she made in good faith. Since appointed agents are oftentimes asked to serve without compensation, they are usually only held responsible for malicious and intentional misconduct.

For example: the misuse of your monies for personal purposes. The law usually requires an agent to provide you or your family with an accurate accounting of how they look over your financial affairs on a regular basis. Also the law will help to monitor whether they are acting in a legal and responsible manner. This is one area where you need to be careful when appointing an agent to act on your behalf. You should always seek legal counsel first, and consider more than one agent when you are about to make a final decision. Remember that this is a truly serious step for you to take when it comes to appointing an agent on your behalf. My mother is seriously ill -- is it too late for her to create a power of attorney form allowing me to look after her affairs?

The answer to this question depends on how sick she is. If your mother is in the early stages of the sickness and still understands the power that she is giving to you, the answer is more than likely--yes, because she still has enough mental competence and understanding to sign a power of attorney. However, if her sickness has advanced to the point that her ability to make financial decisions is in doubt then a power of attorney that she might sign may be invalid in the eyes of the law. In cases of doubt, perhaps a special letter from her physician who has examined your mother can be obtained. A clear statement in such a letter stating that she still has the ability to understand financial matters may be sufficient evidence to make the power of attorney legally valid.

Where can a POA form be used?

A power of attorney can be used for example by an elderly person to allow an adult sibling to handle their banking and financial affairs. The power of attorney form can be provided for a specific job, such as writing checks on a single bank account, or it can be written so that it covers a broader area allowing a person to look after and administer all of your financial affairs.

Who should you appoint as your agent?

Because the agent you appoint has legal authority to act on your behalf, it's crucial that your agent be completely trustworthy, and you should have no doubts in your mind about your decision. If at any time you do feel uncertain about the agent's trustworthiness, you can (and should most definitely) terminate the agent's authority (to act on your behalf) by using a "Revocation of Power of Attorney". You should also make contact with the banks and other concerned parties who may have been relying on the authority of your agent. When creating a power of attorney, it's a good idea to name a second agent, somebody who'll serve as your agent if your first choice of agent is unable or unwilling to act on your behalf.

Which power of attorney form should I use?

Durable Power Of Attorney a Durable Power Of Attorney form is used to allow a third party to conduct most ANY FORM OR TYPE of your business. For example: buying, selling or transferring property on your behalf. It also covers signing legal contracts and documents, purchasing assets, opening and closing bank accounts, buying company shares and stocks, etc. A Durable Power Of Attorney form is the right legal document for a person who doesn't wish to take on such type of transactions. Or, who no longer desires to get involved in such actions. For example: an elderly or a disabled person who is unable to leave his or her home to engage in certain types of business. Or perhaps a person who wishes to leave the country for a prolonged period of time, and who desires somebody else to handle his or her affairs while they are overseas.

General Power of Attorney A General Power of Attorney form grants broad powers. It gives the Agent you appoint broad powers over all of your assets. It includes the right to buy and sell your property, access to your private records, making use of and disposing of any of your personal and business property. A General Power of Attorney essentially grants the agent the right to do anything with your property which you could do yourself. General Power of Attorney is specially drafted to grant the broadest powers to cover almost every situation that you could imagine. A General Power of Attorney can be either durable or springing.

Limited Power of Attorney a Limited Power of Attorney form gives the Agent you appoint specially designated powers. In most cases this type of Power of Attorney form is mostly used to authorize your Agent to take a precise action on your behalf. This may be in the form of an offer to buy your house or use your motor vehicle. When you use a Limited Power of Attorney you must be very specific in your statement in the specific powers you want to give your agent. A Limited Power of Attorney can also be referred to as a "Special" Power of Attorney" and can also be either Durable or Springing.

Custodial Power of Attorney For Minors A Custodial Power of Attorney form for Minors is to be used whenever a parent or guardian of a child needs to (temporarily) appoint another responsible adult to make daily decisions on behalf of a child. This kind of Power of Attorney form should be put to use whenever a parent allows his or her children to be left with another adult. Usually (and, unless specifically stated) a Power of Attorney for Minors grants broader powers and grants the guardian total flexibility (and authority) over the child.

Health Care Power of Attorney A Health Care Power of Attorney form covers all aspects of Health Care and important decisions in this area. A Health Care Power of Attorney grants your Agent the power to make medical decisions on your behalf when it is not possible for you to make such decisions. An example might be if you were to slip into a state of unconsciousness after a car accident. However, a Health Care Power of Attorney form should have been carefully and professionally-drafted to cover a situation like we just mentioned. A Health Care Power of Attorney also gives your appointed Agent authority to consult with your doctor, to take into consideration the risks of certain types of medical procedures, and to give or withhold consent for your doctor or surgeon to perform such a medical procedure. A Health Care Power of Attorney form will only come into effect when you are unable to make a sound medical decision yourself due to your mental incapacity.

Revocation Of Power Of Attorney A Revocation Of Power Of Attorney form grants the user to end a Power of Attorney relationship, handing back to the originator "all legal rights and authority" to again manage his or her personal and business together with financial affairs that were previously assigned through the initial Power of Attorney form. Similar to a power of attorney a prenuptial agreement sets out the personal and legal requirements of a couple contemplating marriage.

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