What Are the Advantages & Disadvantages of Giving Someone Your Power of Attorney?

By Dennis Masino

A power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to name someone you trust to make financial, business and legal decisions on your behalf. It provides a convenient means of having your affairs looked after when you are away or simply unable to do so on your own. The potential for abuse may outweigh the convenience of having an agent with a power of attorney.

A power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to name someone you trust to make financial, business and legal decisions on your behalf. It provides a convenient means of having your affairs looked after when you are away or simply unable to do so on your own. The potential for abuse may outweigh the convenience of having an agent with a power of attorney.

Overview

A power of attorney is a legal document by which you, as principal, designate another person to act as your agent to make decisions and enter into transactions on your behalf. The authority you give to your agent can be as broad or as limited as you want to make it. A durable power of attorney is one that your agent may use even if you become incompetent.

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Powers

You may grant your agent the authority to handle your business, banking, real estate, insurance, investment, pension and gift transactions. A power of attorney may even be used for litigation purposes. You can limit or expand the amount of authority your agent has in the power of attorney.

Advantages

A power of attorney is an easy way to have another person handle legal or financial matters for you when you are away or otherwise unable to handle them for yourself. A durable power of attorney is a protection against costly court proceedings in the event you become incompetent. In that situation, your agent can handle your affairs without the need for a guardian or conservator being appointed by a court.

Disadvantages

A power of attorney ends at your death. Therefore, it is not a substitute for a last will and testament or a trust that designates a representative to handle your affairs upon your death. A power of attorney can be abused by your agent because there is no oversight of his activities by anyone other than you. If you become incompetent or incapacitated, your agent may have no one overseeing his actions. The best way to protect yourself is to make certain that the person you select as your agent is someone you trust.

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How to Appoint a Power of Attorney

References

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Washington State Laws Concerning Illegal Gifting to Self by Power of Attorney

Granting a power of attorney is a useful way to enable someone else to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated or otherwise cannot act on your own. For example, if you develop a significant mental illness you may need someone to take care of your financial or health decisions. However, when you grant the power of attorney to your agent, he must act within the state of Washington’s power of attorney laws, including laws about gifts. If your agent gives himself gifts by using your power of attorney without permission or in a way you didn't authorize, this could be illegal.

What Are the Disadvantages of Using a Power of Attorney?

While a power of attorney can be useful, you should consider some of the disadvantages of giving another person authority to act on your behalf. Giving power of attorney to a person you trust allows her to engage in actions and complete transactions for you. Your agent may do whatever you authorize her to do through your power of attorney document, including your banking transactions.

Can You Use Power of Attorney When a Person Is Alive?

A power of attorney is a document executed by someone referred to as a principal authorizing another person known as an agent or attorney-in-fact to act for her in performing certain actions or managing her affairs. Not only may you, as agent, use a power of attorney when the principal is alive, but you should not attempt to use one after she is deceased. Powers of attorney terminate upon the principal's death. In contrast, a court-appointed executor, often referred to as a personal representative, usually takes charge of legal and financial matters for the estate of someone who dies.

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