A power of attorney is a useful legal document. It can give a third party the legal ability to make decisions for someone else. Generally speaking, other people cannot make your medical or financial decisions. They can’t access your bank accounts or tell your doctors that you don’t want a certain type of treatment.
But there might be a situation in which you would want someone else to have this ability. Maybe, as you grow older, you have a health condition that means it’s impossible for you to communicate effectively. You still need someone to be able to make these choices and take these actions on your behalf, and you can give them that ability by using a power of attorney. You name your agent in advance and they take over when you need them.
When does it spring into effect?
The downside to that, naturally, would be that signing a legal document could transfer your rights before you wanted to do so. This is why the powers of attorney are designed to spring into effect at a certain point. This point is generally considered to be the incapacitation of the person who wrote the document. As long as they can legitimately make their own decisions, no one else can do it for them. But if they cannot, then their pre-selected agent takes over.
This can be contentious. For instance, imagine that a parent is experiencing a mental decline. One child says that they’re essentially incapacitated and wants to take over as their power of attorney. Another child says that their parent is fine and that the potential agent is trying to abuse their position. Disputes can arise. A medical diagnosis may be necessary.
No matter how this process plays out, you can see why it’s important for everyone to understand their legal rights.