When you hear of someone naming another person as their power of attorney, it sounds important and official, but it’s not exactly clear what this act does. Here is some information to help answer the question: What does a California power of attorney do?
In California, you can create a particular legal document called a power of attorney to give another person specific legal authority to act on your behalf. The person creating the document is the “principal,” and the designated person is the “agent,” sometimes called attorney-in-fact, although the designated person does not have to be an attorney.
A power of attorney gives the agent the legal right, as stated in the document, to step into your shoes under certain conditions and make decisions. When you have a financial power of attorney, you may be able to access another person’s bank accounts, make withdrawals, pay bills, or invest funds. However, the power of attorney abilities only extends as far as their creating device. Your power of attorney may limit access to specific accounts or only be in effect for a short period of time. These devices are not always meant to exist in perpetuity, and often end when a person regains his or her capacity.
Once you are acting as a power of attorney, you will be permitted to operate within the scope of the creating document. That means that you will be able to do what the creator wanted you to be able to do with his or her funds. For example, if your friend is having surgery, he or she may temporary give you control over his or her financial interests during the procedure. Having this power of attorney would not give you the authority to spend all of his or her money. Still, you would be a position to make financial decisions if needed. You have a fiduciary duty to the person who created the power of attorney, and you will be responsible for safeguarding their assets and resources during the time you are acting on their behalf.
A power of attorney can be durable, meaning it will become effective upon signing. This kind of power of attorney does not end, even if the principal were to become incapacitated. A power of attorney can also be springing, meaning it will only become effective at the point when the principal becomes incapacitated.
In California, when referring to a power of attorney, the term usually relates to financial decision-making. When you are designating another person to be your medical decision-maker in California, it is through an Advance Health Care Directive. A power of attorney can be general, giving the agent the authority to make decisions about several different types of issues, or it may be limited to specific terms.
To create a power of attorney, you have to have the legal capacity to do so, which usually means being 18 and of sound mind. The document also must be signed before a notary. It would also be advisable to consult with a California estate planning attorney prior to executing your power of attorney. That way, your counsel can review your goals and help you ensure that the document is drafted in a way that protects your interests.
At the Law Office of Alice A. Salvo, we are experienced California estate planning attorneys with the knowledge and expertise you need to prepare your California power of attorney and plan for your future. Schedule a consultation today, and let’s start your estate planning solution.