What is a durable power of attorney?

Missouri law allows a person to appoint another to act as his or her agent, either for a specific purpose or in a more general capacity, by means of a legal document called a power of attorney. Powers of attorney can take many forms and are largely customizable to fit the needs of a particular situation, but they are typically rendered ineffective if the principal is incapacitated.

A durable power of attorney, though, remains in effect even if the principal suffers disability or incapacity. A person may create a durable power of attorney so his or her agent will be responsible for paying bills, making financial decisions, contracting for medical services or making healthcare decisions in the event that the person has a stroke, for example. Furthermore, the document can be drafted such that it takes effect only in the event that the principal becomes incapacitated. This is called a springing durable power of attorney.

Under Missouri law, durable powers of attorney are created by the inclusion of specific language. The principal may make a verbal or written revocation of the document at any time, at which point the agent, also known as the attorney-in-fact, is no longer authorized to act on the principal’s behalf. Revocation also occurs on the death of the principal and language may be included to revoke the instrument on a specified date.

Often, the named agent is an adult child of the principal, though it may be anyone the principal chooses. It is often advisable to utilize a durable power of attorney rather than merely making someone a joint account holder. Each situation is unique, though, and this blog post should not be read as legal advice. Those who have questions about powers of attorney may want to consult a lawyer who has estate planning experience. A lawyer may be able to provide guidance regarding the benefits and limitations of a durable power of attorney in a given situation.

Source: The Missouri Bar, “Durable Power of Attorney“, October 08, 2014
Related Posts: Using power of attorney as part of Missouri estate planning, Powers of attorney in Missouri, Everyone should have these basic estate planning documents, How an estate plan should handle pre-death issues


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