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What can a power of attorney do for me?

Every now and again, many St. Paul residents need a little bit of help in order to manage their affairs. While it often works well to handle these issues informally, there are circumstances in which it may be necessary to have a more formal arrangement in place. Through a power of attorney, individuals can give another person the responsibility of acting on their behalf.

A power of attorney can be useful if a person is unable or unwilling to handle their financial affairs by themselves. The document gives another person the power to perform acts for the individual who executes the document, either at the time the document is executed or at some later time, such as when a person becomes incapacitated.

Different powers can be designated to the individual who acts for the person signing the document, otherwise known as the agent. For instance, individuals might give their agent the ability to buy or sell property, manage Social Security or other benefits or conduct investments. Agents can also help with business transactions, as well as with everyday expenses incurred by the individual.

Accordingly, a power of attorney is a flexible document that can give an agent as much or as little power as an individual chooses. By the same token, individuals can choose when the power of attorney becomes effective and when it terminates. For instance, through a durable power of attorney, the power of attorney remains effective even if a person becomes incapacitated or incompetent.

Ultimately, a power of attorney can be a useful tool to help individuals manage their finances through the help of another person. As with all estate planning documents, however, individuals should ensure they meet the formal requirements for executing the document, and that the document correctly spells out their wishes.

Source: The Office of Attorney General Lori Swanson, "Power of Attorney," accessed on Sept. 13, 2014

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