Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone the power to act on behalf of someone else. In California, the person executing the document is referred to as the “principal” and the person chosen to act on the principal’s behalf is referred to as the “agent” or “attorney-in-fact.”

There a generally four different types of powers of attorney recognized in California. A Durable Power of Attorney, a General Power of Attorney, a Limited Power of Attorney, and a Medical Power of Attorney. A Durable Power of attorney in California allows the agent to make all financial decisions for the principal, even if the principal becomes incapacitated. A General Power of Attorney is the same, except it becomes void if the principal becomes incapacitated. A Limited Power of Attorney only gives authority for the agent to perform a specific duty or transaction and becomes void once it has been completed. A Medical Power of Attorney allows the agent to make all medical decisions for the principal.

What is Required to ensure the Power of Attorney is Valid?

How a power of attorney is set up is crucial if the legal instrument is to operate properly. In order to ensure that the document is valid and that the agent actually possesses all of the power you want to give, certain formalities must be satisfied.

In California, you must have witnesses watch you sign your California power of attorney for it to be legally valid, and these witnesses must also sign to confirm that they watched you sign it. You can either have two witnesses or use a notary.

What if my power of attorney is ignored?

Some banks or other financial institutions refuse to recognize the authority of an agent pursuant to a power of attorney. The reason is that banks may be reluctant to acknowledge a power of attorney for fear of a lawsuit if it turns out the power of attorney is not legitimate. One way to avoid this problem is to contact your financial institutions ahead of time and determine what types of information they require to acknowledge your agent’s authority. Some banks have their own power of attorney forms that you can complete in addition to your power of attorney. If a bank continues to resist, you may want to have your estate planning attorney contact the bank officials directly.

Are the requirements the same for revoking a power of attorney?

Revocation of a power of attorney should also be in writing and notarized. That way, there will be no dispute that the revocation is valid. There is no specific language required, but a written revocation should include your name, the statement that you are of “sound mind,” and that you wish to revoke the existing power of attorney. Your revocation can also include the date of execution of the original power of attorney and identify the agent that was chosen, if you choose to include such information. If you have any questions regarding powers of attorney or general estate planning or need assistance in drafting a power of attorney in California, Seals on Wheels Notary will be happy to assist and refer you to reputable legal services.

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