Vail Law: Powers of attorney have nothing to do with weights
A power of attorney is not the exercise of a lawyer’s might. Rather, it is the exercise of a privilege conferred on someone – even a non-lawyer – to act in legal matters on behalf of another.
Simply stated, a “power” is the authority to do any act which the grantor (that is, the person conferring the power to another) to do any act which the grantor might otherwise do for him or herself.
Here’s an example:
Say you want to go to Fiji. You thirst for adventure, to bake in blue, unfiltered sunshine, to soak in a warm Fijian current. Say, too, you don’t want to miss a business opportunity and you’ve got to be reachable like that (snap fingers here). As in most aspects of our modern lives, to pen a business deal you’ve got to have a pen and be available to ink your John Hancock on the bottom line. That’s hard if you’re in Fiji. What’s a body to do?
You could sign a power of attorney before you take off into the blue, which sort of lets you be in both places at one time.
Before you board the Fiji Airways 747, you appoint someone (your lawyer, or even your brother-in-law) to sign the deal for you when it ultimately comes through. You give him a document giving him or her the right to act for you in your absence. It might say something like this:
“I(your name he re) give (my lawyer/pal/brother-in-law) the authority to act for me and to bind me to the terms of (the big deal).” And off you go to Fiji. Simple, huh?
You can even give your lawyer, pal or brother-in-law the authority to negotiate the terms of the deal for you. In other words, you can put him in your shoes to do whatever what you could do on your own.
The magic words ring something like this: “To exercise or perform any act, power, duty, right, or obligation whatsoever that I now have or may hereafter acquire, relating to (the endeavor).” It might go on to say something like: “… including, without limitation, the specifically enumerated powers hereinafter set forth; and I grant to my agent full power and authority to do everything necessary in exercising any of the powers herein granted as fully as I might do if personally present, or which I might do, if personally present, with full power of substitution or revocation, hereby ratifying and confirming all that my agent shall lawfully do or cause to be done by virtue of this power of attorney and the powers herein granted.”
At this point, it might be key to list the powers you are conferring. These might include the power to enter into contracts on your behalf, commence or maintain legal actions, or a host of other things. You likely also want to include a statement to the effect that third parties (that is, persons other than you and your agent) may rely on the document and depend on it as a true and accurate statement of your intentions.
Powers of attorney are also handy in other settings. Say one becomes invalid. The person, now enfeebled, can no longer act for himself. If he had anticipated this as a potential eventuality in his life, he may have included among his estate documents one or more powers of attorney.
It should be noted, too, that powers of attorney may be general (that is broadly granted) or “special,” investing in the grantee the power only to act on your behalf in limited ways and in limited circumstances. Also worth noting is that a power of attorney may be “durable” (that is, lasting more or less “indefinitely”) or “limited,” that is lasting for only a specific length of time.
Powers of attorney may be used (and should be used) in some other circumstances which might not naturally pop to mind. Let me share an example:
Say you and your spouse decide to lope off to Fiji for some quality time together. In consideration of said quality time together, you determine to schlep the kids off to a babysitter. And, while you’re romping in the surf that kid of yours who lives on her skateboard gets hurt. The sitter gathers up the pieces and takes the kid to the hospital for treatment but, lo and behold, the sitter has no power of authority to act on your behalf to make decisions for the child. If you had thought to leave the sitter with a power of attorney to act for child, life would have been so much easier.
Powers of attorney may, in the appropriate circumstance, invest you with both security and freedom. Key, however, as in most aspects of life, in granting a power of attorney, is to find someone you trust to exercise your rights as you, yourself otherwise might do.
Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the Bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley. He may be heard on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. on KZYR radio (97.7 FM) and seen on ECO TV 18 as host of “Community Focus.” Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at email@example.com.