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A Short Primer on a Power of Attorney

By: Attorney Shira Truitt


A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that allows someone, known as the "principal," to appoint another person, known as the "agent" or "attorney-in-fact," to act on their behalf. Though it can be a stand alone document, it is usually completed as part of an estate plan. The POA can be used for a variety of purposes, such as managing financial affairs, making healthcare decisions, or handling real estate transactions.


Most people believe they do not need a POA—especially if they are young or are in good health. The reality is that anyone over the age of eighteen needs a valid power of attorney if you want to choose the people who should make decisions about you. POA's are also good in case of a medical emergency, where you may understand what is happening but are unable to meaningfully participate in the course of your treatment—like a medically induced coma or after a stroke.


There are several types of POAs, including durable, nondurable, springing, general, and limited. A durable POA remains in effect even if the principal becomes incapacitated, while a nondurable POA is automatically terminated if the principal becomes incapacitated. A springing POA becomes effective only under specific circumstances, such as the incapacitation of the principal. A general POA gives the agent broad authority to act on the principal's behalf, while a limited POA restricts the agent's authority to specific tasks or decisions.


It is important to carefully consider the terms of a POA and choose an agent who is trustworthy and capable of handling the responsibilities delegated to them. This does not mean that the person has to be related to you; rather, you should choose someone you trust who will carry out your wishes. The principal should also clearly communicate their wishes and instructions to the agent.


It is also advisable to consult with an attorney when creating a POA to ensure that it is properly executed and meets the requirements of the state in which it will be used. In some states, a POA may need to be witnessed or notarized in order to be valid. I always recommend at least two people, and a third person if you can get one, just in case your spouse or significant other is with you and suffers the same challenge, there will be someone to serve when needed. Another recommendation, if necessary, is to record them with the recorder of deeds or other responsible entity, so that it isn't easily revoked. This helps with people who have memory loss; they don't always remember if they've previously executed documents.


A POA can be an important tool for protecting one's interests and ensuring that their affairs are managed in the way they desire, even if they are unable to do so themselves. With just a little work ahead of time, you'll have something dependable when the need arises.


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If you need legal advice or a lawyer in Illinois or Missouri, please contact The Truitt Law Firm, LLC for assistance. For more information on The Truitt Law Firm, LLC or to schedule an appointment, please go to www.thetruittlawfirm.com.

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