What is a durable power of attorney?

If you have heard of a durable power of attorney (DPOA) but don't really know what it is or what it does, this blog post is for you. Welcome to the quick and easy guide to this powerful legal document.

What is a DPOA?

A DPOA is a legal document in which the principal (also the signer of the document) grants authority to a trusted individual to make decisions on the principal's behalf. This trusted individual is referred to as the "agent" within the DPOA. The agent has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the principal and can be found personally liable if acting in bad faith.

What does it do?

With a copy of a signed and notarized DPOA in hand, an agent can make decisions on behalf of the principal. There are two main types of DPOAs, healthcare and financial. With a healthcare DPOA, an agent can make treatment choices, choose medical facilities for the principal, order medical records, and make many more decisions related to the principal's healthcare. With a financial DPOA, an agent can make decisions regarding loans, businesses, real property, retirement plans, lawsuits, banking and essentially any type of financial decision the principal can make.

A DPOA is also highly customizable, so a principal can intentionally exclude certain powers from the DPOA if the principal wants limits on the agent's decision making power.

When does it come into effect?

A DPOA can be effective upon signing or upon disability or incapacity. The effective date is specified in the legal document.

What happens if I don't have a DPOA?

If an individual does not have a DPOA and suddenly lacks capacity to make decisions, any person can petition the court to act as guardian of the individual. A guardianship becomes necessary because a DPOA cannot be executed if the signer lacks capacity.

This can come up when someone is severely injured in an accident or cases in which an individual develops cognitive decline. Anyone can petition to become guardian and the process is costly. The legal fee to prepare a DPOA is typically three to four hundred dollars. However, a guardianship often costs thousands in legal fees.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By accessing this blog site you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and Sekhon Law, PLLC. This post should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.