What’s the point of a power of attorney? What happens if I don’t have it?

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. In other words, it is the process of naming someone to act for you if you are mentally unable to. This is usually prepared in anticipation of the possibility of someday being mentally incapacitated and unable to manage your own personal, financial, legal and/or business affairs. In the event that you have not prepared this type of document—and you then become mentally incapacitated—there would be some significant legal and practical challenges. In such an event, someone would have to seek the appropriate determination through a court process to be granted authority to make these types of decisions. This court process (called conservatorship) is costly and time-consuming. Furthermore, not having a document in place that you have prepared leaves greater ambiguity about who you want in that role and what limitations or specific directions you want to include with that authority. Given that preparing a power of attorney is fairly easy and is not very expensive, it is a very wise and simple way to accomplish important planning for your life and your family.