A power of attorney, or POA as people in the know say, is someone you pick to speak for you, legally and financially, when you can’t speak for yourself.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility...
Your Power of Attorney, or POA for the cool kids, is a person who is given the legal right to handle all your legal and financial matters if you’re unable to do them yourself. This includes paying bills, managing bank accounts, overseeing investments, and preparing and filing tax returns on your behalf. [Dig Deeper: Naming a POA]
How Long Does it Last?
When you die, the POA dies with you. Well, not the person you named. The legal power he or she has over your estate is no longer in effect after death.
This Important-Sounding Title Has Three Variations
Durable Power of Attorney: This type goes into effect the moment the paperwork is signed and kicks in if you’re deemed mentally incompetent. However, as long as you’re deemed competent you can change it at any time. [Dig Deeper: Durable POA]
Springing Power of Attorney: This is like the durable POA, but it kicks in--or “springs” into action--if you become seriously ill or injured. [Dig Deeper: Springing POA]
Non-Durable Power of Attorney: This is used when you need someone to take care of a specific financial or legal goal and expires if or when you’re declared mentally incompetent. Like if you’re out of the country and need someone to stand in for you on the closing of a house. Yeah, it’s not an everyday occurrence, but at least you now know what it is. [Dig Deeper: Non-Durable POA]
What Makes a POA A-Ok?
- Attention to detail
- An understanding of his or her duties, and a commitment to taking those duties seriously
- An understanding of finances and, ideally, business
- The ability to collaborate with attorneys, accountants, and other parties, if necessary
[Dig Deeper: How to Choose A POA]
Do It Online or In Person
There’s a bunch of online legal services that can help or you can work with a lawyer.
Online Route: Factors to take into consideration when choosing an online legal service include cost (usually between $15-$50), completion and delivery time, and the services offered by the site. For example, some online legal services will submit your documents for review by a paralegal after completion, and others don’t.
Lawyer Route: You’ll need a trust and estate attorney with significant experience. Talk to friends, family members, and other attorneys to get recommendations. Meet with the lawyer you’re considering before hiring him or her.
One Thing To Note: You’ll most likely have to get the final documents notarized, which you can get at a bank, post office or local government office. Well, if they’re not on a lunch break.