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John J. Ross, Attorney at Law 46 Thoreau Dr., Freehold, N.J. 732-294-9036

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POWERS OF ATTORNEY
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS


 
WHAT IS A POWER OF ATTORNEY?

A power of attorney is a legal document by which you designate another person to act on your behalf in the event that you are unable to take care of your own affairs as a result of physical disability or mental incapacity.

For example, through a power of attorney you can authorize your representative to handle your banking, manage your investments and pay your bills in the event you are unable to do these things yourself.


WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF HAVING A POWER OF ATTORNEY?

Just as a Will provides for the handling of your affairs upon death, a power of attorney can provide for the handling of your affairs if a physical or mental condition prevents you from handling your financial affairs yourself.

If you become disabled, the outside world and your financial obligations do not come to a stop. Bills have to be paid. Checks have to be deposited. Financial and/or legal decisions have to be made.


WHAT HAPPENS IF I BECOME DISABLED OR INCAPACITATED AND I DO NOT HAVE A POWER OF ATTORNEY?

If you are unable to handle your own affairs, a court will appoint a guardian or conservator for you. This involves the commencement of legal proceedings and the hiring of lawyers, the expense of which will be paid out of your assets. In addition, a court, not you, will decide who handles your affairs.


DOES A POWER OF ATTORNEY GIVE ANOTHER PERSON THE AUTHORITY TO ACT ON MY BEHALF EVEN IF I AM NOT INCAPACITATED?

You may choose to make your power of attorney effective immediately. However, you have the option of providing that the power of attorney become effective only if you become disabled or incapacitated. You can also specify under what conditions you will be considered disabled or incapacitated for purposes of the power of attorney.

For example, you can provide that the power of attorney becomes effective only upon the furnishing of a sworn statement from two physicians that you are incapacitated.


DO I HAVE TO DELEGATE ALL OF MY DECISION-MAKING AUTHORITY TO MY AGENT OR CAN I PICK AND CHOOSE THE ACTS THAT MY AGENT CAN PERFORM?

Even though people often choose to delegate any and all decision-making power to their agents, you have the ability to make a power of attorney as narrow or as broad as you choose. Therefore, if your power of attorney specifies the acts which your representative is authorized to perform on your behalf, your representative can only perform those acts.

If you choose to consult an attorney, it is a good idea to ask for a specific listing of the acts that may be delegated to help you decide if you wish to limit your agent's authority in any way.

 
WHERE DO I GO TO OBTAIN A POWER OF ATTORNEY?

Power of attorney forms are available from a number of different places such as banks and legal supply stores. It is often wise to speak with an experienced attorney particularly if you wish to insure that the power of attorney will be honored by various institutions or if you wish to appropriately specify and/or limit the acts which your representative will be able to perform.