Power of Attorney Responsibilities

By Tom Streissguth

A power of attorney gives you (the agent) the legal right to act on behalf of someone else (the principal). The power of attorney document may allow you to make decisions about financial matters, medical treatment or living arrangements, or represent the principal in any legal matters. The laws of each state control how a power of attorney may be drawn up.

A power of attorney gives you (the agent) the legal right to act on behalf of someone else (the principal). The power of attorney document may allow you to make decisions about financial matters, medical treatment or living arrangements, or represent the principal in any legal matters. The laws of each state control how a power of attorney may be drawn up.

Specific and General Responsibilities

There are two general types of power of attorney. A "special" or "specific" power of attorney gives you, as the agent, the right to act in a specified matter and no other. You may hold power of attorney only as an agent in a financial transaction, for example, and have no other responsibilities for the principal. A "general" power of attorney gives the agent a broader scope to act on behalf of the principal and to deal with any and all legal and financial matters on the principal's behalf.

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Incapacity

An agent with a power of attorney must still follow instruction from the principal at all times, except when the principal is incapacitated. A "durable" power of attorney gives the agent the authority to act in this circumstance. Even then, state laws bar agents from making changes in the last will and testament of a principal, nor may the agent use a power of attorney to carry out unlawful actions, such as falsifying a tax return.

Authority

A power of attorney normally gives an agent authority to enter into broadly defined or specific financial transactions, such as buying and selling investments, handling trusts, making payments, settling debts, operating a business, handling government benefits, and filing and paying taxes on behalf of the principal. A health care power of attorney authorizes the agent to make decisions on medical care, including efforts to keep the principal alive if he is comatose, terminally ill or unresponsive to treatment. The agent must consult with treating doctors and support his actions with professional medical recommendations and opinions.

Recordkeeping

The agent (also known as the attorney-in-fact) must keep accurate records of transactions and keep copies of documents, court filings, receipts and any other paperwork involved. All relevant documents must be made available to the principal, and in most cases, a principal will require regular reports on any activity carried out on his behalf. The agent must also answer any inquiries from public agencies on his activities.

Considerations

The power of attorney is not the same as guardianship; a guardian has a broader set of legal authority and can make decisions without specific authority to do so on behalf of the principal. In some cases, a power of attorney only takes effect if a specific event has taken place; this is known as a "springing" power of attorney. A principal can revoke a power of attorney at any time; if the principal dies, then the power of attorney lapses.

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What Protects Families From Power of Attorney Abuse?

References

Related articles

Can a POA Change a Will?

A power of attorney allows a person, referred to as an agent or attorney at law, to act on behalf of another person, the principal. The authority is granted to the agent upon the execution of a power of attorney document that is signed by the principal. Although an agent can make important decisions and perform certain actions for the principal, the agent cannot alter a will, a document consisting of the principal's directions for his estate after his death.

Laws for Power of Attorney in New Hampshire

New Hampshire financial power of attorney laws set forth the rules and limitations under which a person, known as the principal, may grant authority to another person, known as the agent, to act on their behalf. The agent acting for the principal can do whatever the principal has allowed her to do, as outlined in the power of attorney document. In New Hampshire, an agent may have broad authority that includes signing the principal's real estate deal papers and completing the principal's banking.

Can a Power of Attorney Take Money?

When you give someone a power of attorney to accomplish tasks on your behalf, you make that person your agent, and his actions have the same legal authority as if you had taken those same actions. For example, if you give your agent authority to access your bank accounts, he can take money from the account. However, your agent has a legal duty to act in your best interests, so he can’t use the money for his own benefit.

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