Age, illness, or a combination of the two can rob us of our decision-making abilities. However, that should not signal the end of our happy lives. With a conservatorship or a power of attorney, a person in such a situation can get help with crucial decision-making. If you’d like to help someone you love making these types of arrangements in California or if you’d like to add a PoA to your estate plan, you’ll need to know how to file for power of attorney in California.
Unlike conservatorships, power of attorney allows the principal (the person giving away some legal decision-making power) to set some terms and conditions. If you’re looking to learn how to file for power of attorney in California, then you’ve found the right article. We’ll go through what a power of attorney must include in California, agent powers, and more.
What Is a Power of Attorney?
Power of attorney, or letter of attorney, is a legal document that permits someone to appoint another responsible party to legally manage their affairs. This can include financial decisions and legal representation. The person who gives out the authority is the principal, while the one to whom the power is given is the attorney-in-fact or agent.
POA (power of attorney) is often used when someone can’t manage their affairs due to an illness or another factor. Since a principal can change the terms and conditions of a power of attorney, the power of attorney document can be modified so the agent can manage part or all of the principal’s financial decisions and other affairs.
For instance, a principal can hand a medical power of attorney to an attorney-in-fact. This allows the representative to decide on medical treatments when the principal can’t.
The Types of Power of Attorney in California
A power of attorney will generally encompass many types of legal powers. This is because there are a lot of areas in which a power of attorney can help.
Multiple types of POA exist in California, and every one of them serves different purposes. For example, it can include:
- Different scopes of power (narrow powers, ordinary power, limited power of attorney, broad power, standard power)
- Durable healthcare power
- Tax power of attorney
- Real estate power/Estate power of attorney
- Guardianship power
Below you can find the different power of attorney relationships that exist in California. These differences are based on the time a POA takes effect and the responsibilities/authority the agent/attorney-in-fact has.
Durable/Non-Durable and Springing Power of Attorney
This category is based on when the POA takes effect.
Durable Power of Attorney: A durable power of attorney takes effect the instant the principal signs it. The attorney immediately assumes the durable power granted to them and holds on to it even after the principal cannot manage their affairs anymore.
Non-Durable Power of Attorney: This takes effect immediately after the principal signs the document. However, the agent/attorney-in-fact loses their authority immediately after the principal loses their sound mind. This is because the attorney-in-fact lacks durable powers over your affairs.
Springing Power of Attorney: On the flip side, springing PoA takes effect the instant someone becomes incapacitated. A springing power of attorney agreement can be a good option for a completely capable person who wants to plan ahead. If you have a high-risk illness, for instance, a springing power of attorney gives you the power to make all your treatment decisions until you can no longer make them.
Types of Power of Attorney Based on Authority
Here are the different powers of attorney depending on how much authority they are given:
General Power of Attorney
The authority this type of power of attorney grants spans a wide range. The attorney-in-fact can, for example:
- Manage business operating transactions
- Settle claims
- Handle your real estate transactions and transfer of ownership deals
- Make investments, real property transactions, retirement plan transactions, bond transactions, and other decisions on financial matters
General power of attorney is an apt choice for some healthy individuals. For example, you can grant it to a representative if you are out of your country and want people to keep your business affairs in order. A general power of attorney is often added to an estate plan as it helps you plan ahead.
A general POA can become active the moment you choose it for your ongoing tasks. You can either choose to activate it immediately or pick a time for it activates. This type of power of attorney expires whenever you see fit.
Limited Power of Attorney
Limited or special power of attorney is a form of agreement where you authorize a lawful agent to perform a specific task over a period of time. For instance, if someone wants to sell a property but cannot represent themselves for whatever reason, they can appoint an attorney-in-fact. When the task is complete, or the set date is due—say till your minor children turn 18 —the power of attorney terminates.
PoA for Healthcare Provider
This type of power of attorney relationship gives your lawful agent the power to make all your medical decisions. In California, the agent can decide on serious health care decisions such as ending life support and declining extended treatments.
How to Find the Right Attorney-in-fact
You have to pick the right agent for a power of attorney to work. Your choice depends on the type of PoA you want.
If you opt for a PoA for business matters involving sensitive transactions, the agent has to have experience in that field. Also, medical power of attorney should (in most cases) delegate power to a close relative or loved one—your child, spouse, or a close friend, for example. It is integral that your proposed agent is trustworthy, shares a similar belief system with you, and is readily accessible.
How to File for Power of Attorney in California
The process of getting power of attorney in California is simple. It involves just three steps that we’ll cover below.
1. Get the Form for Power of Attorney
It is easy to access and draft an original power of attorney document in California. The California probate code provides a form that aligns with its law. Also, on the California Office of Attorney General website, you can get a typical healthcare PoA form. You can also get the form from a legal document preparation service like A People’s Choice, which can make the following step much easier.
2. Fill out the Power of Attorney Form
As you fill out the power of attorney document with care, you must take note of these components. Again, A People’s Choice can assist with all of this.
- The two parties involved (the principal and the attorney-in-fact), including an address and contact information
- The power/authority the agents will have. The powers you can assign in the California Probate Code form are laid out; the principal simply has to initial next to them.
Note that the healthcare form gives the attorney-in-fact de facto power over all healthcare-related decisions and life treatment options unless you provide your exception on the form. There are some exceptions set in stone in California’s legal structure. For instance, an attorney-in-fact can’t change your (principal’s) will.
Also, if two or more people will act as alternate agents, the principal must determine how they will make decisions. If you are making your own PoA and want the attorneys-in-fact to act independently, simply state it. If you want them to work together, you indicate that instead.
3. Execute Your Power of Attorney
In California, you either sign your form in front of a notary public or sign by two witnesses. Although any option you pick works, you should do both if possible. Signing in front of a notary further guarantees that your signature is valid. While having two witnesses sign helps when you want to defend the verifiability of the power of attorney form.
One of the California legal requirements for a PoA is that the execution date is included on the power of attorney document. For more information on filing for a power of attorney or renewing one, click here for the California state guide.
Do You Need a Power of Attorney Lawyer?
Not necessarily. There are much more affordable alternatives. The power of attorney process is easy to go through with the help of a document preparation platform.
The cost of power of attorney is based largely on whether you hire a lawyer to complete this three-step process. The notarization process normally costs $15, but a lawyer’s services can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. You can hire a document preparation platform to save money on your document preparation. Hire an affordable one like A People’s Choice to prevent your expenses from going overboard.
Why A People’s Choice?
A People’s Choice is a California legal document preparation service. A team of professionals well-versed in how the power of attorney works will ensure you properly fill out your forms and meet the basic requirements. Simply begin with a click, fill out the questionnaire, and they are at your service.
Click here to discover how you can get power of attorney using A People’s Choice. With them, you will get your power of attorney settled in no time!
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