Benefits of Appointing a Power of Attorney
In the most basic sense, a power of attorney allows another person to make decisions on your behalf. It is a legal document that, in Texas, must be signed in front of an individual who is authorized to administer oaths and “take acknowledgements to deeds of conveyance.” Typically, this is a notary public.
Powers of attorney are used in two primary ways: to grant someone the authority to make financial decisions on your behalf or to allow someone the ability to make medical decisions on your behalf. As such, there are two main types of powers of attorney: financial powers of attorney and medical powers of attorney.
These are important documents for a number of reasons. For one, they allow you to designate a person (called the “agent”) that you trust to make decisions for you if for some reason you are not able to. This includes if you become incapacitated or mentally incapable of making important decisions regarding your finances and healthcare treatment. Additionally, powers of attorney protect your family members and loved ones from having to make tough choices on your behalf if you suffer an unfortunate accident. They can also be used for specific, one-time circumstances, such as in the event that you need to complete a financial transaction but are out of the country.
If you are interested in learning more about powers of attorney, please contact Stepp & Sullivan, P.C. at (832) 501-2823 for a consultation with one of our Houston estate planning attorneys.
Different Types of Powers of Attorney
As previously mentioned, powers of attorney can be used for both financial and medical purposes. Additionally, there are several different types of powers of attorney. Your unique needs will depend on your situations, as well as the particular goals you wish to achieve.
The different types of powers of attorney include:
- General Power of Attorney: As the name implies, this type of power of attorney grants the agent a wide range of authority in handling various matters on behalf of the principal, or the person who created the power of attorney. If the principal becomes physically disabled or mentally incapacitated, the general power of attorney ends.
- Durable Power of Attorney: A durable power of attorney is much like a general power of attorney in that the agent has authority to handle a variety of issues. However, with a durable power of attorney, this authority does not end if the principal becomes incapacitated and/or disabled, either physically or mentally.
- Limited/Special Power of Attorney: A limited or special power of attorney is used to grant the agent authority for a specific purpose, such as a particular transaction. Typically, limited powers of attorney are only used for a certain amount of time.
- Springing Power of Attorney: Springing powers of attorney are created for the express purpose of granting an individual authority to make decisions on behalf of the principal in the event that the principal becomes incapacitated or disabled. A springing power of attorney only goes into effect once this occurs.
- Medical Power of Attorney: In contrast to other types of powers of attorney, which grant the agent the right to make financial decisions for the principal, medical powers of attorney allow the principal to appoint a person to make medical decisions on his/her behalf. This can include decisions regarding the length of time a principal should be on life support, hospice care, end-of-life treatment, and more.
It is important to note that, while powers of attorney give the agent authority to act on your behalf, the agent cannot tell you what to do. Your ability to make decisions for yourself may be limited with a power of attorney, but the agent can only handle certain things that you have already outlined. Additionally, depending on the type of power of attorney you establish, it can end. You may even select an end date if you wish, and you have the right to revoke a power of attorney at any time.
Establishing a Power of Attorney in Texas
In addition to being signed before a notary public or similarly authorized individual, powers of attorney must meet certain requirements in order to be considered valid in the state of Texas.
These requirements include:
- Both the principal and the agent must be at least 18 years old
- The principal must be mentally capable of establishing the power of attorney and cannot be coerced or otherwise tricked into signing the document
Additionally, if a power of attorney is used to complete a real estate transaction, the document will need to be filed with the county clerk in the county where the real estate property is located and must reflect that it was executed in a lawyer’s office.
Before creating a power of attorney, it is a good idea to discuss your options with an experienced attorney. You will also want to think carefully about the person you choose to serve as your agent. Powers of attorney grant the agent a broad range of authority; make sure it is someone you trust and have no problems being responsible for. If you select your spouse to serve as your agent, the power of attorney will cease in the event that you divorce unless you specify in your power of attorney that you do not wish for this to occur.
If you have questions about creating powers of attorney in Texas or would like to learn more about how you specifically can benefit from establishing powers of attorney, reach out to our legal team. At Stepp & Sullivan, P.C., we have been serving individuals and families throughout the Houston area for more than 35 years. We are happy to answer your questions and address any estate planning concerns you may have.
Give us a call at (832) 501-2823 or contact us online today to request a consultation with one of our estate planning lawyers in Houston.