Seven Things You Should Know About Powers of Attorney in Virginia
Powers of attorney are valuable tools for managing your business and personal affairs, and health care. If you are considering one, here are seven things you should know about powers of attorney in Virginia:
1. What Is a Power of Attorney? A power of attorney is a legal document that allows you (the “principal”) to appoint someone (the “agent”) to act on your behalf. A limited power of attorney contains language that restricts the agent’s authority to a specified act or specified period of time. A general power of attorney is effective upon signing and gives the agent authority to do anything you could do for yourself, but it is no longer effective if you become incapacitated. A springing power of attorney (also called a conditional power of attorney) becomes effective if and when you become incapacitated; it can also be used in other situations, for example, it could be conditioned upon your deployment if you are in the military. A durable power of attorney is effective upon signing and remains effective even if you become incapacitated. A health care power of attorney gives your agent the authority to make decisions regarding your health care.
2. Why Should You Have a Power of Attorney? A power of attorney can help with the management of your business affairs, personal affairs or health care. It can be particularly useful in planning for your possible incapacity or unavailability.
3. What Are the Agent’s Responsibilities to You? You should appoint someone you trust to act on your behalf because there is no formal oversight of the agent. You should discuss the power of attorney with your agent to be sure they are willing to use the power of attorney to manage your affairs, if necessary. The agent must act only in your best interest. The agent should keep records and papers indicating what he or she has done for you, and you have the right to ask for those records.
4. What Is a Durable General Power of Attorney? Under Virginia’s Uniform Power of Attorney Act, a power of attorney is “durable” unless it expressly states otherwise. A durable power of attorney will remain in effect even if you become incapacitated (temporarily or permanently unable to make your own decisions due to mental impairment). Having a durable power of attorney may eliminate the need to have the court appoint a guardian or conservator for you. If the power of attorney expressly states that it is not durable, it loses its effectiveness if you become incapacitated.
5. Will a Power of Attorney Prevent You From Managing Your Own Affairs? You will not lose the right to manage your own affairs and make your own decisions if you sign a power of attorney. As long as you are competent, the agent should act only when you ask them to act. You can revoke or change the power of attorney at any time, as long as you are mentally able to understand what you are doing.
6. What Is Required for a Power of Attorney to Be Valid? The original document must be signed before a notary and witnessed by two adults. A photocopy of a power of attorney is treated the same as an original, except in those cases where the Virginia statute requires an original. The passage of time does not affect the validity of a power of attorney in Virginia.
7. Can a Power of Attorney Be Terminated? A power of attorney terminates when: (a) you die, (b) you revoke the agent’s authority, (c) the agent resigns, dies or becomes incapacitated, (d) the power of attorney terminates according to its own terms, (e) the purpose of the power of attorney is accomplished, or (f) unless the power of attorney otherwise provides, an action for divorce, annulment, support, child custody or visitation is filed between the principal and the agent .
A power of attorney is a legal document that should be drafted by an attorney. If you are a resident of Northern Virginia and have decided that a power of attorney will be a valuable tool for you, Livesay & Myers, P.C. can help. We have a team of experienced estate planning lawyers representing clients across Northern Virginia. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.