Given how common they are, it should not be surprising that most people, at some point during their lifetime, execute a power of attorney. A power of attorney, or POA, can be used for a virtually infinite variety of purposes and objectives. If you do decide to execute a POA it is critical that you understand what you are signing, with particular emphasis on the authority you grant to the Agent under the POA. One decision you will need to make is whether you should have a durable power of attorney.
At its most basic, a power of attorney is a legal agreement whereby you (the Principal) grant authority to another person (the Agent) to act on your behalf in legal matters. The extent of the authority your Agent has under the POA depends on what type of POA you signed and the details included in the document. A general POA, for example, gives your gent almost unfettered authority to access your assets and stand in for you while the POA is in effect. A limited POA, on the other hand, only gives an Agent the specific authority mentioned in the document itself.
Traditionally, the authority granted to an Agent under any power of attorney expired upon the death or incapacity of the Principal. For many people, this is precisely when they want their POA to work so that a spouse or other loved one has the legal authority to take over for them should they become incapacitated. With this in mind, the “durable” power of attorney was developed. Anytime a power of attorney has the word “durable” in it you know that the authority granted to the Agent will continue during the incapacity of the Principal.
In South Carolina a special type of durable POA is often used for incapacity planning purposes. The “South Carolina Health Care Power of Attorney” is a durable POA used in South Carolina to appoint an Agent who will be able to make healthcare decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so at some time in the future. Executing this type of POA now prevents potentially costly litigation down the road to determine who should be allowed to make healthcare decisions for you if you cannot make them.
Before you execute any type of power of attorney it is always best to consult with an experienced South Carolina estate planning attorney first to ensure that you understand what you are signing. If you have additional questions or concerns about a durable power of attorney, contact the experienced South Carolina estate planning attorneys at Kuhn & Kuhn Law Firm by calling 843-577-3700 to schedule your appointment.