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The Ins and Outs of a Power of Attorney

Gene Kirzhner Feb. 11, 2020

Barack Obama once said, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength.”

Whether you just found out you have cancer or are way too busy running your business to focus on your personal finances, a power of attorney can help. A power of attorney takes off this excess stress and lets you focus on what matters so that you can move on with your life and your future. But what is a power of attorney, and what can it do for you?

What Is a Power of Attorney (POA)?

According to the American Bar Association (ABA), “A power of attorney is accepted in all states, but the rules and requirements differ from state to state. A power of attorney gives one or more persons the power to act on your behalf as your agent. The power may be limited to a particular activity, such as closing the sale of your home or be general in its application. The power may give temporary or permanent authority to act on your behalf.”

To put it simply, a power of attorney allows an individual—referred to as an ‘agent’ or ‘attorney-in-fact’—to make important decisions on your behalf so you can focus on in your personal life.

What Can a Power of Attorney Do for You?

To understand the full scope of a power of attorney, you must first choose a type of power of attorney. There are financial and healthcare agents to choose from, and both options have different rights and responsibilities.

For instance, a healthcare ‘attorney-in-fact’ can decide the kind of medical care an individual receives, what doctors, care providers, and hospitals the individual uses, and how the individual lives, eats and bathes. If the agent believes you should live closer to the hospital or feels that a particular medical treatment is more dangerous than worthwhile, they can make these decisions on their own. This type of power of attorney is ideal for those suffering from major illnesses and looking for someone to be a part of the entire process that knows their wishes and desires, should they not be able to make their own decisions.

Meanwhile, a financial agent can access all of the individual’s accounts, paying bills on their behalf, managing their taxes and finances, collecting debts, making investments, managing property, and applying for public benefits. This is perfect for those that are either too busy to manage their finances, no longer competent in one way or another, or for those focusing on other major life issues like divorce, death, or bankruptcy.

What Can They Not Do?

Now that you know what a power of attorney can do, let’s take a look at what they can’t. A power of attorney cannot change a will, not have the individual’s best interest in mind, make decisions on the person’s behalf after their passing, or change or transfer the power of attorney to another agent after the agreement has been made.

If you would like to know more about power of attorney laws in Rhode Island or want some help with the legal side of this process, don’t hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Howe and Garside today! We will be happy to help you with any and all of your POA matters starting today!