Common Misconceptions About Designating General Power of Attorney

You have probably heard the term “power of attorney” many times. But do you understand what it does (and does not) mean?

Laws differ from state to state, and much of what we hear on the news is about power of attorney cases gone wrong.

Does this mean it is too confusing to understand? Not at all!

What you need is to distinguish the difference between fact and fiction when it comes to a general power of attorney.

In this post, we will debunk five common misconceptions about power of attorney documents.

Myth #1: All Powers Are Equal

Are power of attorney documents one-size-fits-all? Far from it!

Some are “limited,” which means that they are limited to one specific purpose. These purposes might include medical or financial decisions, such as the sale of a property. Others might include a time limit or only go into effect if you are incapacitated (or if you are not).

A general power of attorney may grant the chosen agent full right to make legal, medical, and financial decisions for the individual. It is crucial to select someone who is trustworthy and capable of managing your assets, estate, and health in ways that you would wish.

Myth #2: Internet Forms Are All You Need

There is a whole host of free legal forms on the internet, including power of attorney forms.

All you need to do is print one out and sign it, right? Wrong!

Internet forms may not be specific to your state’s laws, or it may be outdated. It may also grant your agent more, less, or the wrong type of power.

Your best bet is to have a personalized document drafted by a local, knowledgable lawyer.

Myth #3: You Give Up All Rights and Power

Many power of attorney documents do not take effect unless you are incapacitated and unable to make decisions on your own.

Assigning power of attorney does not mean you give up all rights to act in your own behalf. If you still have the ability to make your own decisions, you can, especially if your agent tries to make a decision that is not in your best interest.

Myth #4: You Can Get Power Anytime

This is an important one to take note of. Someone who signs a power of attorney document must do so while he or she is of sound mind.

Power of attorney is something that must be decided and arranged before a person is incapacitated. If you wait until the person is in a coma or develops a cognitive disease like dementia, it will be too late.  

Myth #5: Power Survives Death

A final myth we will address is that a power of attorney document remains in effect after the person dies.

Put simply; this is false. The document serves its purpose only as long as the individual is alive. 

After that, whatever is in the person’s will goes into effect. A power of attorney document does not trump a last will and testament. 

Final Thoughts on General Power of Attorney

Now that we have cleared up some common misconceptions, what is next?

If you and your family need to draft a general power of attorney document, do not go it alone.

personal family lawyer can provide the expert guidance you need to ensure the document is exactly what your family needs. Please contact our office today to discuss your concerns.

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