A Durable General Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows your agent to act on your behalf. In general, it empowers the agent to do everything that you could do - sign contracts, write checks, access accounts, and the like. Because it gives the agent so much power, I generally do not recommend to clients that they have a Durable General Power of Attorney unless there is a specific reason to do so - for example, you and your spouse are traveling and you might need someone to act on your behalf while you are gone.
One exception I have to this general rule is with spouses - I do think it can be helpful for spouses to have Power of Attorney for each other. As a result, this is one of the documents that I discuss with clients when we are talking about your Estate Planning needs.
If you are in a situation where you think a Durable General Power of Attorney might be helpful, you might consider what we call a "springing" power of attorney. What this means is that the Power of Attorney only goes into effect when a certain event occurs - in this case your disability. Here is a sample of what this language might look like:
EXERCISE OF POWER OF ATTORNEY. This Power of Attorney will be exercised by my agent only when a medical professional determines that I am incapacitated and my agent reasonably believes that such exercise is necessary for the protection and well-being of my person or my property.
Limited Power of Attorney
One other tool that you might consider is a limited power of attorney. A limited power of attorney allows the agent to act on your behalf for a specific purpose. For example, I have used this tool for clients in real estate transactions.
If you would like to discuss a Durable General Power of Attorney as part of your Estate Plan, please contact me.