波士顿律师 will advise you that you should have a power of attorney. A Power of Attorney is an important document that allows someone else to handle your affairs if you have difficulty or are unable to do so. With age and illness, a Power of Attorney often becomes necessary. Usually the person who is given the authority to act will do so with the best of intentions. What happens, however, if the person you trust misuses the Power of Attorney for personal gain or benefit? A Power of Attorney may seem like a simple document, but it can have far-reaching and unintended consequences. A Power of Attorney can be very tempting to the person who has it.
A Power of Attorney is a legal document by which a person (the “Principal”) gives someone else (the “Agent” or “Attorney-in-fact”) the authority to act on the Principal’s behalf. If the Principal becomes ill, incapacitated or otherwise unable to handle her financial affairs, or simply chooses to let someone else do it for her, the person or persons she designated in the Power of Attorney can pay bills, deal with banks, lawyers and other professionals, and do other things that are in the best interest of the Principal.
A Power of Attorney can be general, meaning that it gives the Attorney-in-fact the authority to do whatever the Principal might do for herself, or limited, meaning that it is limited in scope and/or time. For example, a Power of Attorney may be limited to one specified act or type of act, such as a limited Power of Attorney to attend a real estate closing and sign the closing documents on behalf of a buyer or seller, or it may be limited in time, such as a Power of Attorney that is effective only during the time that someone is out of the country on a trip.
A Power of Attorney also may be durable, meaning that it takes effect upon its execution (or a specified date) and continues in effect even if the Principal becomes incapacitated, or springing, meaning that it only takes effect after the Principal is incapacitated (or some other definite future act or circumstance). The problem with a springing Power of Attorney is that it requires a judicial determination of incapacity for the power to take effect. This can take a considerable amount of time – plus the initiation of legal proceedings, the hiring by the Court of an independent person to interview and investigate the circumstances of the alleged incompetent, and a hearing in Court – often exactly at a most trying time when there is a need for prompt or immediate action.
In New Jersey, a Power of Attorney can include provisions with respect to making health care decisions, including the power to consent to any medical care, treatment, service or procedure. A health care power of attorney is different than a “Living Will”, which is a written statement of a person’s health care and medical wishes, but does not appoint another person to make health care decisions.
A Power of Attorney is a useful and powerful tool. Unfortunately, as with many things, something with a good purpose still can be used for improper purposes. A general Power of Attorney allows the Agent or Attorney-in-fact to do almost anything the Principal could or might do herself. As a result, it can be an invitation to abuse and self-dealing.