What Does "Power Of Attorney" Mean?

What Does “Power Of Attorney” Mean?

by | Aug 8, 2018 | Family Law

While it doesn’t happen that often for the average person, there are occasionally circumstances that require delegating legal authority to a third party. When those times come, it’s important to understand what “power of attorney” means, how to give it, and what the person who has it can and cannot do while acting on on your behalf.

What Is Power Of Attorney?

Power of attorney is a document that one person signs in order to appoint another person to legally make financial and/or medical decisions on their behalf if they are unable to do so. The person whom has been given power of attorney is called an “attorney-in-fact” or (more commonly) an “agent”.

The document itself will determine the amount of power the chosen agent will have in making decisions. It may be broad and far reaching across all aspects of someone’s life and business, or very narrowly focused on one specific area that a person needs help with.

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Power Of Attorney Examples

While every situation will be unique to the individual granting power of attorney to an agent, there are some common situations in which it is often used. This includes:

  • Making financial decisions
  • Buying life insurance
  • Settling claims
  • Operating business interests
  • Protecting or claiming personal or estate assets
  • Making health or medical decisions, including the ability to withhold or stop medical procedures, treatments, and services

Giving someone power of attorney is a very serious consideration and should only be given to someone that can be trusted and relied upon completely and totally.

When To Give Power Of Attorney

The most common situations in which an individual needs a third party to act on their behalf include:

  • Old Age: Those who may be unable physically or mentally to make sound decisions near the end of their life; and don’t have–or don’t trust–family to help them.

  • Military Duty: Active military personnel may decide to entrust someone else to make decisions for them when they are deployed.

  • Terminal Illness: Those suffering from a terminal illness may choose to give power of attorney to someone that can make medical decisions and arrangements for services after they have passed.

  • Domestic Violence: Domestic violence victims may choose to use an agent to negotiate with a violent spouse in order to get a divorce and handle any face-to-face encounters that the victim feels uncomfortable attending themselves.

It’s important to know that power of attorney must be established when a person is mentally stable enough to make the necessary decisions. It’s a good idea to get a doctor involved in the process if the power of attorney includes medical decisions. That way there’s proof of sound mental status before and after the power of attorney document is signed.


At Vonder Haar Law Offices, we offer every client a free phone consultation to discuss their unique situation and determine how we can help. To arrange a consultation, please fill out the adjacent form or call us at: (707) 529-3200.

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