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Don’t Believe These Power of Attorney Myths

When people in Greensboro, North Carolina create an estate plan, they usually include one or more powers of attorney. Through a carefully created power of attorney, you give yourself the ability to delegate some of your decision-making authority to another person or organization. The representative you select, called your agent or attorney-in-fact, will then be able to act on your behalf.

Yet powers of attorney are not well understood in the general population. Many people have no direct experience with these important documents, and often learn about them only through their friends or family. Not only that, but much of what people learn is often mistaken or completely basic. To dispel some of the popular misconceptions about powers of attorney, let’s review some of the more widely circulated myths.

Don’t give power of attorney because you can be taken advantage of.

Every so often, a story appears in the media about someone who abused the power of attorney given to them. These stories often involve elderly people who grant their children power of attorney over their finances, only to see their children take advantage of the parents.

While it is true that the person you appoint as your agent will receive legal authority to act on your behalf, instances of misconduct or abuse are exceptionally rare. The legal reality is that someone who receives power of attorney has a legal duty to act in your best interests. If that person abuses his or her powers, both civil and criminal penalties could apply.

Only a lawyer can be a power of attorney.

This popular myth arises because of the language involved with power of attorney. A power of attorney is just a kind of document, while an attorney-in-fact is a representative. No one involved in the creation or use of a power of attorney needs to be a lawyer or have any familiarity with the law. However, you should always consult a lawyer when creating or using any kind of legal document, especially a power of attorney.

When you create a power of attorney you give away your rights.

Delegating your rights to someone else is not giving them away. Through your power of attorney, you have the ability to choose the kinds of decisions you allow your agent to make. Whether you want to make a document that only gives very limited powers, or very broad powers, the choice is always up to you.

Further, as long as you remain mentally competent, you also retain the ability to revoke or terminate power of attorney whenever you like. The agent can only act for as long as you choose. If you choose to fire your agent at any time, you are free to do so.

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