A power of attorney is a relatively simple, but very powerful document. It allows the principal (the person giving the power) to appoint someone (the attorney-in-fact) to act on his or her behalf. For example, if the principal become incapacitated or simply wants help managing finances or making medical care decisions the attorney-in-fact can be given this authority.
The power of attorney can be a limited, special power giving the attorney-in-fact authority to perform a specific act within a specified time period on behalf of the principal, or can be a general, durable power giving the attorney-in-fact the authority to perform almost any conceivable act for the principal.
The power of attorney can also be a springing power, meaning it becomes active upon a specific event, such as the principal’s incapacity, or a current power meaning it is active immediately upon the document being executed.
If the power of attorney gives the attorney-in-fact authority to sell, transfer, or encumber real property, the power of attorney must be recorded in the county recorder’s office.
A power of attorney is only active as long as the principal is still living. Upon his or her passing, other estate planning documents or probate will determine who has authority over the decedent’s estate.