What is a power of attorney?

A power of attorney is a document that you sign naming a person that you trust to have the authority to make your financial and legal decisions for you if you are no longer able to do so yourself.  This person, called your “attorney-in-fact,” is able to act in your place for your financial and legal decisions.  With very few exceptions, he or she can buy and sell property, open and close accounts, pay and incur debts and otherwise take any actions that you could take yourself.  Most durable powers of attorney take effect upon signing, even though the idea is that they will not be used unless you become incapacitated.  Because of this, it is important that you name a trustworthy person for this important duty.