Things don’t always go the way we want them to in life. We are all aware of this fact, and yet, humans often get complacent, believing that accidents, illness, and death only happen to other people. Meaning that when tragedy does strike—often suddenly, and without warning—there isn’t much time to prepare (if any, at all).
Unfortunately, this is the nature of being human. Life is unpredictable, and there’s only so much we can do to maintain control over those difficult situations.
One thing you can do, however, is to give a trusted loved one power of attorney. This will give you the peace of mind in knowing that no matter what comes, the decisions made on your behalf will be the ones you’d want.
Here’s what you need to know about powers of attorney in Texas, and how Neal Ashmore can help guide you through these important decisions.
What is a Power of Attorney?
To begin, power of attorney refers to a legal document that authorizes someone else to make decisions for, or act in a certain capacity, on your behalf.
In this arrangement, the person creating the document (or, rather, the one giving the power), is called the “principal.” On the other end, is the “agent,” who is the individual authorized to act on the principal’s behalf.
A principal can give their agent authority in either a limited capacity, or over a much larger sphere, depending on their situation—which, to be clear, does not have to include serious injury or incapacity. In some cases, you may want to assign power of authority to someone, just so you don’t have to think about certain decisions.
Powers of attorney can be used to target anything from private affairs, to business choices, family matters (such as temporary authority over minor children), all the way up to medical and end-of-life decisions. Which brings us to our next point…
If it wasn’t already obvious, this is not a one size fits all situation.
Types of Powers of Attorney
Power of attorney isn’t a blanket function that can be applied to anything you want it to—that would be like saying every attorney is proficient in every type of law. (In case you didn’t know, that’s false.)
Indeed, the broad arena of assigned powers actually breaks down into smaller, niche sections, each of which is designed to serve a specific function. And—just like you wouldn’t hire a tax attorney to handle your divorce—picking the right power of attorney for your situation will ensure that your wishes are carried out exactly the way you want.
In Texas, the types of powers of attorney include:
- Limited Power of Attorney—an agent is assigned a narrow range of authority, in a specific area, for a defined amount of time.
- General Power of Attorney—an agent has a much broader range of power, over multiple areas, which then end if the principal ever becomes mentally or physically incapacitated.
- Springing Power of Attorney—an agent’s responsibilities are only triggered if, and when, the principal becomes incapacitated.
- Durable Power of Attorney—an agent is bequeathed a broad range of authority (similar to a general power of attorney), except that their power will continue, even if the principal is incapacitation.
- Medical Power of Attorney—an agent receives limited authority to make medical decisions on a principal’s behalf.
Medical Power of Attorney vs. Living Will
While both deal with making decisions on behalf of an incapacitated or unconscious principal, medical power of attorney and living wills are not the same thing.
A living will is a legal document that tells doctors what kinds of treatments, medications, and actions the principal wants (or doesn’t want) in emergency situations. However, it is strictly limited to life or death scenarios, where the individual is unable to speak for themselves, and without treatment, they will likely die.
Medical power of attorney, on the other hand, has a much broader scope. This document can be used to outline all of a principal’s medical preferences, including non-emergency situations. (Though, again, it’s usually limited to scenarios where the principal can’t speak for themselves.)
Who Can Draft a Power of Attorney?
Contrary to what the name might suggest, you don’t actually have to be an attorney to draft a valid power of attorney.
According to Texas law, in order for your document to be valid, you must simply be:
- Older than eighteen;
- Of sound mind at the time of drafting; and,
- Have your document notarized.
In addition, if your power of attorney involves real estate somehow (either directly or indirectly), then you must also file a copy of your notarized power of attorney with your county clerk.
Terminating Powers of Attorney
Powers of attorney don’t have to last forever, and you have the right to halt this authorization at any time.
In Texas, powers of attorney cease whenever:
- The timeline listed in your powers of attorney expires;
- You become incapacitated (durable powers not included);
- Once a guardian of the estate is appointed for you;
- When you die; or,
- Whenever you choose to revoke it.
It’s important to note that powers of attorney won’t give your agent some kind of evil overlord power over you. This document can’t be used to control you, and while it does give your agent the authority to do certain things on your behalf, it does not prevent you from doing those same tasks, also.
For example, say you grant a friend or family member limited power of attorney over your child, in order to care for them while you’re on extended vacation. This limited power of attorney would make certain tasks easier for your babysitter—particularly if they needed to give permission for something, during your absence. However, at no point while you are away will you ever actually lose authority over your child, yourself.
Do I Need an Attorney to Draft a Power of Attorney?
As is the case with all legal matters, you are always free to self-represent your own powers of attorney in Texas. However, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Powers of attorney deal with complex matters like real estate, businesses, medical decisions, end-of-life directives, and the care of minor children. These are fairly serious decisions to be giving someone else the power to make, and not something you’ll want to take chances with.
A knowledgeable attorney can give you the peace of mind in knowing you aren’t missing anything important, and ensure that your wishes will be carried out exactly as you intend, no matter what unexpected twists life takes.
Powers of Attorney Lawyers in Texas
It’s not easy to give control of your life over to another person—even if it’s only a contingency plan for something that might never happen. The problem is, of course, that life is unpredictable, and sometimes the only way to maintain any control, is to make sure the right person is in charge.
If you have more questions about powers of attorney in Texas, and which type is right for your situation, we want to hear from you. Call the Neal Ashmore team today at (972) 436-8000, or schedule a consultation online, and let us help you prepare for the parts of your life that you can control.