Powers Over Personal Property

Although you may be perfectly capable of caring for your personal property, situations change. To ensure that your property is cared for, disposed of and handled the way you want, you should execute a power of attorney. A power of attorney officially authorizes another person to act as your agent under certain circumstances. Any adult that is mentally competent can act as an agent under a power of attorney. The person appointing the agent is the principal.

What should I include in a power of attorney?

You must include any limitations you want to place on the person you appoint. Since the person you are appointing acts in your place as if she were you, your wishes and instructions should be clearly set out. If you have certain conditions that must be fulfilled before the agent can act, i.e. debilitating health problems, these must be included in the document.

Am I liable for the acts of the person I designate in the power of attorney?

Yes. You and the agent are the same person in the eyes of the law. If your agent uses the power of attorney to borrow money, you are responsible for paying it back.

I am living in a foreign country. Can I appoint someone to buy property from me using a power of attorney?

Yes. In most states, a power of attorney permits your agent to sell and buy property on your behalf.

I have been appointed the agent for a friend in a power of attorney and do not want the responsibility anymore. What do I do?

Tell your friend that you are revoking your power of attorney. It is not necessary for you to prepare a legal document; however, it is a good practice to put your revocation in writing and deliver it to your friend.

Does a power of attorney ever expire on its own?

Yes. If there is not a time limit in the document itself, the power of attorney is automatically revoked upon the principal's death.

TIP: A power of attorney may be automatically revoked if the principal is declared incompetent. By adding a clause that it will not be terminated by the disability of the principal, the power of attorney becomes "durable" and will not be revoked in this situation.

What is a proxy?

A proxy is a power of attorney that allows another person to vote for a shareholder at a stockholder's meeting.

TIP: If you execute a shareholder proxy, read the form very carefully, follow the instructions to the letter, and make sure you are giving your vote to people who will vote the way you want.

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