What is a Power of Attorney?
A car accident or sudden illness can leave someone unable to talk to their family about finances or to discuss preferred medical treatments with their doctors. Unfortunately, thousands of families face this reality each year.
This highlights the importance of something called “power of attorney.” It sounds abstract, but a power of attorney is actually a concrete document. It gives a specific person the power to act on your behalf. The person designating the power of attorney is known as the “principal.” The “agent” is the person receiving the power to act. Most of the time, people choose their spouse, child, or trusted friend to act as their agent. A valid power of attorney document gives that person the legal power to handle important matters for you.
Durable vs. Non-Durable Powers of Attorney
Let’s explore the distinction between types of power of attorney (POA). They are not all equal in the eyes of the law.
A non-durable power of attorney automatically becomes invalid if the principal becomes mentally incapacitated. These non-durable documents are meant to be valid for a specific length of time. For example, you might want to give your parents access to your bank account or your P.O. Box for the duration of your two-week trip abroad.
On the other hand, durable power of attorney does not go into effect until after a person has become mentally incapable of making his or her own decisions. Without valid, durable POA documents, your loved ones may not be able to handle your medical or financial affairs without first going to court to be granted the authority.
Power of Attorney Laws in Arkansas
If you are considering your legal options in Arkansas, the Uniform Power of Attorney Act sets the standards for POA in the state. This act states that all powers of attorney are durable unless the document states otherwise.
Powers of Attorney: Medical and Financial
To be sure you’re protected in all areas, consider creating two separate powers of attorney: medical and financial.
A medical POA, also called a “durable power of attorney for health care,” helps ensure that your preferences for medical treatment are followed. The medical “agent” you specify will be legally required to follow the treatment plan that you’ve laid out. They will work with the doctors to communicate your requests.
In combination with a medical power of attorney, you may want to create a “living will” to provide clear, written instructions about your desired medical treatment.
A durable financial power of attorney gives your chosen agent the ability to make financial transactions in your place. You can determine the extent of the power you’d like to give the agent. You may want them to check your mail, file your tax returns, or manage your investments.
Taylor King Law: Tackling Legal Terms
This is the first installment in our Tackling Legal Terms series, where we explain common legal terms in plain language. If you have questions or would like to have your own power of attorney documents in place, Taylor King Law can help! Our attorneys can create legally binding, durable powers of attorney as well as living wills.
To begin your FREE consultation, you can call us at 1-800-CAR-WRECK (227-9732), or submit a form online at taylorkinglaw.com. Don’t wait to get help – hire a lawyer who will be on your side, by your side.