What Your Power of Attorney Cannot Do - lofty, arched ceiling

What Your Power of Attorney Cannot Do

An important step in estate planning is to complete the paperwork for a durable power of attorney (POA). There are two types of powers of attorney, a financial POA and a health POA. A financial power of attorney document provides for someone of your choosing to handle your assets in the event that you become incapacitated. A health power of attorney steps in and makes decisions about your healthcare if you’re no longer able to do so. At Phelps LaClair (with offices in Phoenix, Mesa, & Gilbert AZ), we believe firmly in being ready for the unexpected, since the alternative can cause great heartache and difficulty for your loved ones. In the past we’ve written about the benefits of establishing your power of attorney. In today’s blog post we would like to talk about what your power of attorney cannot do for you.

The Role of a Power of Attorney

First, let’s briefly discuss the job of a POA. They are legally given the right to act according to your wishes concerning either your financial assets or your healthcare. A financial POA may carry out tasks like paying your bills and taxes, collecting debts, making investments, managing rental properties in your stead, and making other financial decisions. A healthcare POA may make decisions about your medical care, psychiatric care, which doctors to use, home care and nursing care, and even your wishes concerning whether life support should be used to keep you alive.

What Your Power of Attorney Cannot Do

But there are certain things your power of attorney cannot do. They cannot:

  • Change your will or living trust.
  • Act independently from the stipulations written on your POA document. Those stipulations are known as fiduciary duties. Even if the goal of the person acting as your POA is to handle matters in your best interest, they do not have the right to depart from what has been legally written on your POA document. They must act according to their fiduciary duties.
  • Make decisions on your behalf after you’ve died. A power of attorney is only effective while you are living.
  • Hand over their POA responsibilities to another person, unless it is to an alternate power of attorney that has already been named in the POA legal documentation. They can, at any point, say no to their role as POA, but they may not transfer their duties to another person who has not been designated by you.

Keeping Your Power of Attorney Current

Understanding what a durable power of attorney cannot do is as important as sitting down with good legal counsel to determine their fiduciary duties. If you live in the Phoenix Valley and you haven’t taken care of establishing a durable financial power of attorney and a durable power of attorney for healthcare as part of your estate planning, give us a call. Our staff at Phelps LaClair has been helping families create their legacies for more than 40 years. We understand that being ready for the unexpected gives you peace of mind for the future, so you can fully enjoy the present.


Images used under creative commons license (Commercial Use) Little Visuals.

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