What is a power of attorney?
A power of attorney is your legal permission for another adult to act on your behalf. The permission can
be granted for a specific, limited purpose and period of time or for much broader purposes (such as
handling all of your financial affairs) and an unquantified period of time (such as until your death). The
first type is called a “conventional power of attorney,” and the second type is called a “durable power of
When would I want to give someone my power of attorney?
If you are going on an extended vacation and there are financial transactions that will need to be completed dur-
ing that time (for instance, buying or selling a house, closing a mortgage,
or buying or selling stock), it might be convenient or necessary to have an
“attorney in fact” who can complete those transactions for you. Similar rea-
soning applies if you know you will be away on military duty. Another im-
portant use for a power of attorney is if you become incapacitated. Estab-
lishing a power of attorney in advance allows you to plan for who will be
making decisions that affect your legal, financial and/or medical well-being.
Who can I name as my attorney in fact?
The person who holds your power of attorney is called your attorney in
fact. Your “attorney in fact,” in effect, steps into your shoes for the deci-
sions you authorize that person to make. The attorney in fact must be an
adult and must have the legal ability to enter into a contract. The person
you choose can be (but does not have to be) a relative of yours. The per-
son you name as attorney in fact should be someone you trust. You should
also have that person’s agreement to act as your attorney in fact before
naming them, since acting as an attorney in fact is voluntary and no one
can be required to serve as your attorney in fact.
The person who agrees to act as your attorney in fact will owe you a fiduci-
ary duty, which means that your best interests must always be placed first