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One person may choose to give someone else the legal authority to act on his or her behalf. In California and other states, signing a legal contract known as a power of attorney awards “attorney-in-fact” authority. Giving someone power of attorney abilities is a common component of estate planning, and it is not something given lightly or without careful consideration. The document must follow a state’s guidelines to be valid as well.
The requirements to make a power of attorney designation legal in California are relatively straightforward. The principal must sign the document in front of two witnesses, and the two witnesses must also sign. The principal must be over the age of 18 and have the legal authority to act on his or her own behalf.
The language in the document should be clear to avoid any ambiguity or confusion, and the POA form could be limited in scope. POA authority is often financial in nature; a separate POA for health care decisions would be necessary for medical situations.
Financial power of attorney allows someone to serve as another person’s representative and file tax returns, pay bills, sign contracts and more. Health care power of attorney allows a representative to deal with doctors and other providers.
Wills, trusts, POAs and health care directives are all part of estate planning, and California statutes spell out specific elements that make them valid. Some individuals choose to sign template forms or create do-it-yourself documents that might prove problematic. Working with an attorney may increase the chances the documents are legally sound.
It bears mentioning that it is vital to choose a competent person as a representative. Selecting a trustworthy and responsible person may help individuals avoid scores of problems.