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Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legally enforceable document that designates a trusted individual or organization to manage the affairs of the person who enacted the POA.

The person who executes the power of attorney document is referred to as the principal. The person granted power of attorney is referred to as the attorney-in-fact.

POAs may also vary in terms of when they come into effect. Many are active as soon as they’re executed, and others don’t become active until the principal is declared mentally incompetent by their physician.

It is important to note that for a POA to be valid, it must be executed by the principal at a time when they are fully competent. If it is later proven that the principal was incompetent when they executed the POA, the POA could be invalidated by the court.

In general, in CALIFORNIA power of attorney documents are described in two ways: by the time period in which they are in effect, and by the types of legal matters they cover.

In more recent times, two additional options have become available:

1. Durable Power of Attorney.

A durable power of attorney is one that continues even if the principal becomes incapacitated. In California, a power of attorney can be made durable by including the phrase: “This power of attorney shall not be affected by the subsequent incapacity of the principal,” or “This power of attorney will continue to be effective even though I become incapacitated.”
Springing Power of Attorney. A springing power of attorney is one that does not become effective until the principal becomes incapacitated. This allows you to avoid giving your agent immediate authority. By its nature, a springing power of attorney is also a durable power of attorney. In California, a power of attorney can be made a springing power of attorney by including the phrase: “This power of attorney shall become effective upon the incapacity of the principal.”

Regarding the specific legal matters covered, there are basically three types of POAs:

2. General Power of Attorney.

This type of POA gives the agent broad authority in a number of legal matters, with the exception of health care decisions. It is also commonly referred to as a financial power of attorney.
Limited Power of Attorney (also called a Specific Power of Attorney). A California limited power of attorney can be prepared to allow your agent to act only in a narrow, specifically defined situation. For example, you can authorize your agent to represent you only in a single real estate transaction, or to represent you for a short period of time while you are out of the country. This can be accomplished with a unique, specifically prepared document, or by using the standard form approved by the California legislature and adding the detailed limitations you desire.

Power of Attorney for Health Care. This type of document authorizes your agent to make decisions about your medical treatment, but only if you are unable to make or communicate such decisions. By its very nature, a power of attorney for health care is both a springing and a durable power of attorney.

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