A power of attorney (POA) gives someone you name the authority to handle legal or financial matters for you under specific circumstances. When you create a POA, you are called the principal, and the person you choose to act for you is called your attorney-in-fact or your agent.
Types of California Powers of Attorney
California has three types of POAs.
- General POA. This is the broadest kind of POA and gives your agent the right to handle a wide variety of financial matters for you.
- Limited POA. This is sometimes called a specific POA. This is a very narrow POA that gives your agent the authority to act for you only in specific situations you list in the document. For example, you may be planning a trip, but your new house's closing is scheduled while you are away. You can authorize your agent to handle only that specific real estate transaction for you.
- Healthcare POA. Should you become incapacitated, this document gives your agent the right to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.
Activation of Powers of Attorney
In addition to the types of matters the POA covers, when the POA will become effective can also vary.
- Durable POA. A general or limited POA can be durable, which means it goes into effect when you sign it and remains in effect until you destroy or revoke it.
- Springing POA. A general or limited POA can be written so that it takes effect only at a certain time or under certain conditions (so it "springs" into action only at that time). For example, you could create it so that it takes effect only if you are incapacitated or so that it is effective for one month. A healthcare POA is always a springing type since it only goes into effect if you cannot make your own medical decisions.
Where to Get a POA Form
In California, you must use the form created by the state for your POA. You can find financial POAs in California Probate Code Section 4401, called a Uniform Statutory Form Power of Attorney. This is used to create general or limited POAs. The California healthcare POA is found in Section 4701 of the Probate Code and is called an advanced healthcare directive.
You can also work with an attorney or an online service to create and execute your POA. If you are unsure about which form to use or how to complete and execute it, legal assistance is a good idea.
How to Execute a California POA
A California POA can only be created by a principal who is 18 years of age or older. The principal must also have the legal capacity to enter into a contract. A general or limited POA must be signed by the principal and two witnesses or a notary.
If the POA gives your agent the right to handle real estate transactions, the document must be notarized so that it can be recorded with your county. The agent listed in the POA cannot be a witness to the document.
The principal and two witnesses must sign a healthcare POA. The witnesses cannot be your agent, your healthcare provider, or an employee of your healthcare provider. If you are a nursing home resident, the form must also be witnessed by a patient advocate or ombudsman in addition to your two witnesses.
As soon as you sign the POA form, it is in force. Keep the form in a safe place. Give a copy to your agent. For healthcare POAs, be sure to give a copy to your healthcare provider.
Completing a POA gives you the peace of mind that someone can handle things for you if you are unable to do so.