By drafting a power of attorney, you can authorize someone to make financial , legal or medical decisions on your behalf, for example selling property in another state or handling your affairs while you're overseas. A power of attorney ends if you're incapacitated, but a durable power of attorney does not. If you want someone to make decisions for you at such times, a durable power of attorney is a useful tool.
The "agent" who receives your power of attorney has the same authority to handle your business affairs as you do: She can sell your real estate, manage your investments or draw on your bank account. This doesn't take away your independence; the agent can't control you, she's simply supposed to help you. Given the duties with which such a person is to be entrusted, it's important to name someone you trust.
If you draft a durable power of attorney, it can take effect as soon as you sign it, according to the Michigan State Bar. If your main concern lies with having someone step in if you become unable to manage your affairs, you can use a "springing" power of attorney. These take effect only under specified conditions, for example when a doctor certifies your incapacity. You can specify in the document which doctor is to make that decision or what exactly qualifies as incapacity.
You can find a power of attorney form online and fill it out easily, the Nolo legal website states. Depending on your state law, you may need it notarized or witnessed. You can specify exactly how much or how little authority you want your agent to have, and whether it applies to business affairs or health care decisions. For a power of attorney to be durable, it has to state, specifically, that the power continues even if you become incapacitated.
Once you die, Nolo states, your power of attorney becomes void: You can't use it to give anyone authority over your affairs after death. While you're alive, you have the authority to revoke your power of attorney at any time, as long as you're mentally competent. The power of attorney also ends if your agent is unavailable--incapacitated or dead, for example--unless it creates an alternative agent. In rare cases, a court will terminate a power of attorney on the grounds that you were mentally incompetent or coerced when you signed it.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.