There are two fundamentally different types of power of attorney documents: (1) an “immediate” power of attorney, and (2) a “springing” power of attorney. An “immediate” power of attorney grants authority to the agent immediately upon your signing of the document. In other words, if you sign an immediate power of attorney, you are giving someone immediate authority to act on your behalf. A “springing” power of attorney grants authority that only becomes effective if you are shown to be mentally incapacity (unable to manage your own affairs)–which would typically be accomplished by ca signed certification from a physician.
A general durable power of attorney grants a named individual (called the “attorney-in-fact” or “agent”) the authority to act on your behalf with respect to whatever matters are designated in the document. This in turn means that the document needs to be clear, concise and carefully crafted to meet your needs. In short, a general durable power of attorney is about your ability to have your property, legal affairs, business dealings and financial matters handled effectively, conveniently and quickly in the event of difficult or unforeseen personal circumstances. Without a power of attorney, if you become mentally incapacitated, someone would have to seek the appropriate determination through a court process to be granted authority to make these sorts of decisions. In addition to the obvious timeliness and convenience problems of not having a power of attorney, the door would also remain open to disputes regarding your capacity and ability to make your own decisions. In the event of any question as to your whereabouts, further complications would also be anticipated.