Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney can be a useful, and sometimes essential, document for senior citizens. In general, the older a person becomes, the more important it is to have a durable power of attorney.

A durable power of attorney is a paper by which one person (the “principal”) appoints another person as agent and allows this agent to act for the principal.

The most common use for a power of attorney document is to transfer property. The principal can authorize the agent to sign the principal’s name to buy, sell, or mortgage real estate; buy or sell securities; deposit or withdraw funds from a bank; or sell automobiles. The power of attorney document can also be used to name a person to make health care decisions and arrange living accommodations. You can give your agent as much authority as you think appropriate.

Clearly, you should appoint only someone you trust. Most married couples appoint each other. Single persons generally appoint a relative or a close friend.

If you do not have a durable power of attorney and you become incompetent due to an accident, disease, or age, a court-supervised guardianship would likely have to be arranged for you. A guardianship would make your finances and personal problems a matter of public record. A guardian’s decisions regarding your welfare would require a court order and your guardian would probably need a lawyer for some of the court proceedings. Most people prefer these matters be determined privately by a spouse or trusted relative or friend acting under a durable power of attorney.

This information is general in nature and should not be relied upon for your specific circumstances. For information, questions, or comments, please contact Douglas J. Engel or Kathryn S. Kumar.