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What is a springing power of attorney?

Just when you thought you were pretty savvy about California powers of attorney, one of your friends mentioned his or her springing power of attorney at your latest dinner party. That may be a new one on you and of course you are curious.

As you probably already know, a power of attorney is a legal document that you or more likely your attorney drafts and you sign. In it, you appoint someone to make medical or financial decisions for you in case you suffer an injury, accident or illness that renders you incapable of making those decisions for yourself. The former is a medical power of attorney and the latter is a financial power of attorney. Either type can be springing or durable; both of these words refer to the time at which your power of attorney becomes effective.

Springing power of attorney

As Aging Care explains, unlike a durable power of attorney that takes effect immediately, your springing power of attorney takes effect at the time and under the condition(s) you specify. This is when your appointed agent obtains the legal authority to become your attorney-in-fact and begin acting for you and on your behalf. Think of it as the time(s) when you want him or her to spring into action for you.

Under most circumstances, you will not want your agent to begin making your decisions for you unless and until you become incapacitated. For instance, for your medical power of attorney, you may wish to specify such times as the following:

  • When a physician diagnoses you with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another type of mental illness
  • When an illness or injury causes you to slip into a coma
  • When an illness or injury deprives you of your speech
  • When an illness or injury causes you to be placed on life support

For your financial power of attorney, you may wish to specify such times as all of the above plus the date on which you plan to take an extended trip, especially one out of the country. While you are not medically or mentally incapacitated by such a trip, you nevertheless are unavailable to make needed financial decisions while away.

Exceptional clarity

Whatever conditions or events you set, you need to make sure that they are crystal clear. The last thing you want is to force your loved ones to go to court and have a judge decide whether or not your attorney-in-fact can begin making your medical or financial decisions because your present condition meets the criteria set forth in your springing power of attorney.

This information is educational in nature; you should not interpret it as legal advice.

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