Power of attorney can be an incredibly useful tool to help individuals manage their legal and financial decisions should they become incapacitated. But how? You may be wondering what exactly that means. And you’re not alone. Power of attorney is often misunderstood. So, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we will define power of attorney and outline How to Get Power of Attorney in the State of Maryland.
What is Power of Attorney?
Power of attorney defines who has the authority to make your legal, medical (Advanced Directive), and/or financial decisions when you pass away or if you are no longer able to make them for yourself (incapacitated). Quite simply, it is a document that gives at least one person the legal authority to act on behalf of another person. According to Maryland Code, Estates and Trusts § § 17-101 – 17-204, any writing or other record that grants a person the power to act on behalf of another will be read as a legal power of attorney. The document does not need to contain the phrase “power of attorney.”
The person who grants the power of attorney is referred to as the principal and the person receiving the power of attorney is known as the agent or attorney-in-fact. The power of attorney document itself defines exactly what the agent is able to do and how much authority they really have.
- General: This gives the agent the right to act for the principal in all personal and business matters (managing bank accounts, stocks, real estate transactions, legal matters, medical decisions, etc.).
- Limited: This grants the agent only very specific powers stated in the document.
Here in Maryland, powers of attorney are assumed durable unless specifically stated, meaning the powers stay intact in the event the principal becomes incapacitated (Md. Code, Estates & Trusts § 17-105).
How to Get Power of Attorney in Maryland
To create a power of attorney, a person must be at least 18 years of age, be deemed mentally competent (understand the document and the powers they are granting the agent), and plan to give power to the person they designate on the official document.
- Select an Agent: The agent does not have to be an attorney – just an individual the principal trusts. In every instance, the agent is expected to act in the best interest of the principal (Md. Code, Estates & Trusts § 17-103). They are required to act loyally, ethically, and keep detailed records of transactions (Md. Code, Estates & Trusts § 17-113).
- Determine the Scope: Exactly what powers do you plan to grant the agent and when do these powers begin? Are you interested in a general power of attorney or a limited power of attorney? If you want the agent to have the power to make both financial and medical decisions, you will need to create two documents. Medical powers of attorney are called advance directives(Md. Code, Health-General §5-601) and designate how you would like to receive medical care and treatments should you not be able to make the decision yourself.
- Create the Document: To draft a power of attorney, work with an experienced Estate Planning Attorney, like PathFinder Law Group.
- Execute the Power of Attorney: The power of attorney typically goes into effect as soon as the principal signs the document (with two adult witnesses). However, in many situations the agent is only granted power after certain events, such as death or incapacitation.
PathFinder Law Group – Legal Guidance That Comes From the Heart
If you would like to discuss how to get power of attorney, reach out to PathFinder Law Group. We are an estate planning law firm in Towson, Maryland with over 15 years of experience. Our team approaches estate planning from a place of compassion, patience, and understanding. We empower our clients to make the best decisions for their future by removing the fear that comes with having to plan for life-changing events. We want the planning process to be as comfortable as possible, so all your expectations and needs are met.
At PathFinder Law Group, our estate planning process is designed to eliminate your concerns and help you to:
- Minimize taxes
- Control the future of your assets
- Minimize costs
- Protect assets in the event of future incapacity or death
- Offer protection and stability to your heirs
- Avoid probate (when the state handles your wealth after death)
To contact PathFinder Law Group about your estate planning needs, please complete our Contact Us form, call (443) 579-4529 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to guide you through life’s milestones in a way that is compassionate and reassuring.