Understanding power of attorney

In California, a legal platform that allows a person to act on an individual’s behalf is called a power of attorney. This authority may cover one specific area, such as health care, or have a much broader scope. The person who assumes this position is referred to as the agent or attorney-in-fact and is given their authority at the behest of the principal. The power of attorney may be considered durable, meaning that it remains intact even if the principal becomes incapacitated. Nondurable powers of attorney end if the principal becomes incapacitated.

Powers of attorney are created to handle many activities while an individual is not able to do so on their own. The agent may handle banking and securities, property rental or sales, tax filing, contracts, applications for state benefits, caretakers and paying bills for the principal. Those duties are outlined in the power of attorney agreement. The extent of the agent’s power is under the control of the principal and may be modified to suit the situation.

There are restrictions limiting an agent’s power. An agent may not change or draft the principal’s will or give themselves gifts from the principal’s assets. If the agent does attempt to take assets and the principal is over 65, they may be charged with elder abuse. Gifts from the principal to the agent are permitted. However, different rules may apply to gifts if the principal is incapacitated.

Having an attorney’s advice when setting up a power-of-attorney agreement may be helpful. The attorney may assist with drafting an agreement that accomplishes what the principal needs and wants, while assuring their safety.

Source: The Superior Court of California, “Power of Attorney“, October 06, 2014