(Please note that this guide applies only to Powers of Attorney in the State of Oregon.)
Q: What is a power of attorney?
A: A power of attorney is a legal document, appointing a person to manage your finances. This person is called an “agent.”
Q: What can a power of attorney authorize my agent to do?
A: You can make your power of attorney as broad or as narrow as you choose. If you do not limit the power you give to your agent, this is called a “general” power of attorney. If you limit the power of your agent, this is called a “specific” power of attorney.
A power of attorney can be for the purpose of allowing an agent to sell your home, make withdrawals from a specific bank account, or pay your bills while you are out of the country, for example. It can be as broad as to allow your agent to manage all of your finances, change beneficiary designations on your financial accounts, and make gifts on your behalf.
If you execute a general power of attorney, the person you appoint as your agent can become a clone of you for financial purposes. They have access to your financial accounts and can manage your assets and property and collect insurance or benefits on your behalf, among other things.
Q: Do I need a power of attorney?
A: It’s a good idea for every adult to have a power of attorney. In the event that you become incapacitated, you will have already appointed someone to manage your finances.
If a power of attorney authorizes your agent to act in the event that you become incapacitated, this is called a “durable” power of attorney. A power of attorney is automatically durable unless you specify that it is not.
Q: What happens if I don’t have a power of attorney?
A: If you don’t have a power of attorney and you become incapacitated for a period of time, a loved one may need to ask a court to be appointed “conservator” to be able to manage your finances. A court then oversees this process and tells your loved one what they can and cannot do with your property. If you are incapacitated, you do not get to choose the conservator. A power of attorney ensures that you get to choose who you want to be in charge of your finances and you get to say what they can and cannot do.
Q: When does a power of attorney go into effect?
A: In Oregon, a power of attorney can go into effect when you sign it or it can go into effect at a date or event that you specify. For example, you may specify that the power of attorney does not go into effect until you are financially incapable. A power of attorney that does not go into a effect until a certain event happens is called a “springing” power of attorney.
Q: If I have a power of attorney, can I still manage my finances?
A: When you execute a power of attorney, you do not give up power over your finances, so long as you have the ability to do so. Your agent, however, will also have this authority. This is why it is very important to choose someone you trust to be your agent.
Often people execute a power of attorney as a precaution in case they become incapacitated. They speak to their agent and let them know that they do not want them to manage their finances until they become incapacitated.
Q: How long does a power of attorney last?
A: A power of attorney can last for any period of time that you specify. If you do not specify when the power of attorney ends, it will end at your death. A power of attorney cannot continue after you die.
You can also revoke your power of attorney at any time that you are capable.
Q: How do I revoke my power of attorney?
A: You can revoke your power of attorney in writing.
Q: Where can I get a power of attorney?
A: You can hire an attorney to draft a power of attorney for you. You can also purchase a power of attorney at a legal stationery store or download a form from the internet.
Q: Do I need to hire an attorney to draft a power of attorney?
A: You do not necessarily need an attorney to draft a power of attorney. However, because a power of attorney can be such a powerful document, it’s important not to sign it without understanding what it means and making sure that it will do what you intend. You should have an attorney review your power of attorney before signing.
I hope this answers any questions you may have about Powers of Attorney. Please do not hesitate to contact my office, Aaby Family Law: 503.646.2501 or e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have any further questions.