Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is like a voluntary guardianship or conservatorship. The person giving the power, called the principal, agrees to the relationship with the person receiving the power, called the attorney in fact. The attorney in fact acts as the principal's agent. The most typical use of a power of attorney is in financial matters. The agent given a power of attorney over financial matters has no power over the personal affairs of the principal. A power of attorney can be revoked at any time by the principal, so long as the principal is competent.

A power of attorney can be limited to specific transactions or can grant full power over all financial and legal affairs. When the principal becomes incompetent, the agent can no longer act, unless a durable power of attorney is used. Durable Power of Attorney is created by including words that say the power of attorney will continue to be effective even if the principal becomes incompetent. A durable power of attorney continues in effect as long as you live, even if you become incompetent, or can take effect only if you become incompetent. But so long as you stay competent, you can revoke a power of attorney.

Special Power of Attorney can be used to appoint an agent to make medical treatment decisions for you in the event you become unable to communicate those decisions. A similar document, called a living will specifies the type of treatment you want or do not want in the event that you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious.