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April 5, 2013

Legal Assistance Office assists with powers of attorney

Legal Assistance Office

One of the most popular services the Fort Huachuca Legal Assistance Office provides is preparing powers of attorney.

There are various types of powers of attorney service members may need during their time in the armed forces. Each power of attorney has a specific purpose and provides for a specific authority for your agent.

General Power of Attorney: A general power of attorney gives your agent broad authority to act in your behalf. With a general power of attorney, you authorize your agent to manage all of your affairs. Your agent can then sell things for you, buy things for you, and enter into contracts for you. If you expect your agent will need authority to handle a variety of matters on your behalf, a general power of attorney may be the best option. But be very careful before giving someone else a general power of attorney! Since a general power of attorney gives so much authority to your agent, it can be easily abused, and you will be responsible for any contract or liability your agent incurs in your name.

Specific Power of Attorney: A specific power of attorney spells out exactly what your agent can do for you and limits their authority to those specific situations. For example, if you would like your agent to ship your car or file your tax return but you do not really need him to withdraw funds from your bank account, consider a specific power of attorney. A specific power of attorney has another added benefit. Many businesses, including banks and credit unions, will only honor specific powers of attorney.

Medical Care: A health care power of attorney allows you to appoint an agent to make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated and unable to express your wishes. Like a general and specific power of attorney, a health care power of attorney allows you to give broad discretion to your agent or to limit the agent’s authority to certain situations. Unless the document includes specific limits, your agent will have the authority to make any health care decision that you could normally make for yourself. This could include a decision about whether to artificially administer food and hydration or simply to provide for pain management. Completing a health care power of attorney can spare your loved ones a great deal of uncertainty and anguish by making your wishes clear.

Estate Planning: As clients come to the Legal Assistance Office for estate planning assistance, we are receiving more requests for durable springing powers of attorney. A durable power of attorney allows you to appoint an agent to continue managing your affairs even if you become incapacitated due to physical disability or mental incompetency. It becomes effective as soon as it is signed. By contrast, a durable springing power of attorney allows you to appoint an agent to manage your affairs in the event that you become incapacitated. Along with a will, a medical power of attorney and a living will, a durable springing power of attorney can be a valuable tool you can use in planning for the future.

Revoking a Power of Attorney: As a general rule, it is not difficult to revoke a power of attorney. If you need to revoke a power of attorney after you have given it to you agent, send your agent written notice that you revoke the power of attorney you gave to someone earlier. Be sure to send the written notice through certified mail or another way that allows you to prove it was delivered. Next, send a copy of the revocation to anyone that might rely on the old power of attorney (banks, credit unions, businesses, utility companies, etc.). If your agent uses the power of attorney after receiving your revocation, your agent has committed fraud and could be subject to civil and criminal penalties.

If you need a power of attorney or simply would like additional information, stop by the Fort Huachuca Legal Assistance Office between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. or call 533.2009. We are located on the first floor of the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, Building 51102 on Hatfield Street.




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