Powers of Attorney are a major tool in every estate planner and elder law attorney’s toolkit, and the concept has been fairly well ingrained in our cultural lexicon. Perhaps it’s because of that that it never ceases to amaze me how frequently misunderstood they are. It shouldn’t be surprising that a properly informed client does not translate to properly informed children a decade or two down the road, and yet, when my colleagues and I then try to set the record straight for family members, they do not want to believe us.
I have given some thought to what the easiest, proper explanation of a power of attorney is, and if I was pressed to boil it down to a single sentence, I’d go with the following:
A power of attorney is a document that allows an individual to share with another person their own ability to manage their money and property and make legally binding agreements on their behalf to the extent specified in the document.
However, since my goal is to provide a well-rounded discussion in these blog posts, and there’s no shortage of space, I’d like to break down a few key parts of that definition for those who are interested.