Handling the Affairs of Another
It is easy to have a power of attorney prepared and signed. Once the person signs the power of attorney before a notary public and it is filed in the county clerk’s office, the person using the power (known as an “attorney in fact”) can do almost anything which the signer can do.
The existence of the power of attorney does not take away any authority of the signer to handle his own affairs; it merely vests authority in another person to also handle business and financial affairs. It can be revoked by the person giving the power, so long as that person is still competent to revoke it. Often an elderly parent will give a power of attorney to a son or daughter so that they can handle financial transactions such as paying bills and managing bank accounts. Powers of attorney can give broad powers, or be very specific and limited giving only a few powers, such as the authority to handle a single real estate transaction.
There are some powers which a power of attorney cannot grant to another, such as the power to make health care decisions. The authority to delegate medical decisions to another can only be done through a health care proxy.
The disadvantage of using a power of attorney as a substitute for a guardianship is that the person signing the power must be competent to sign it. If the person is not competent to sign, some other method of guardianship must be used. A child cannot sign a power of attorney, nor can someone who has already become incompetent. One who has never been competent likewise cannot use this device.
With proper planning the power of attorney is a useful tool to allow someone to handle the affairs of another.