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What is an “Attorney-in-Fact”?

An Attorney-in-Fact is someone appointed to act on someone’s behalf. They are authorized to make decisions and complete tasks, like signing legal documents. While usually not an actual lawyer, an attorney-in-fact can even appear for the signee in Court.

How do you become an Attorney-in-Fact?

Their signee grants them “Power of Attorney” (POA)! Starting to sound familiar? The Power of Attorney authorizes the Attorney-in-Fact to make decisions on behalf of the signee.

It’s important to note that while we see the word “attorney”, only a State Bar Association can authorize someone to practice law.

Who needs an Attorney-in-Fact?

Most commonly, a person who is required, but cannot physically appear, at a specific location. This may be a hearing or meeting with professionals. Not all Attorneys-in-Fact are due to illness or medical emergencies, though. Sometimes the issue are travel commitments or time constraints.

When Do You Need an Attorney-in-Fact?

The need arises when a person is unable to make decisions, many times due to an emergency. It’s important to consider the complexity of the situation when considering a POA. Authorizing someone else to be your voice requires trust.

Who should be my Attorney-in-fact?

After considering any legal implications, time to make another decision. Is it appropriate to appoint a stranger in the field to make these decisions? You may find it best to leave decision-making up to trusted family.

Power of Attorney documents are revokable at any time by the signee. It’s essential to select a trustworthy and reliable attorney-in-fact.

Types of Power of Attorney

The two basic types of POA granted to attorneys-in-fact:

  1. General – Blanket authorization to make decisions and general manage the signee’s affairs.
  2. Limited – A POA that is limited to a specific task or decision. This is also known as a “Special Power of Attorney”. They are essentially limited to the four corners of the POA.

Durable Power of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) remains in effect even if the signee becomes incapacitated. The Attorney in Fact continues to act, legally, on behalf of the signee without missing a beat.

A DPOA must include specific language continuing the POA authorization. Any applicable timeframes or conditions are always specified in the documentation. Hospice or terminal illness POAs will almost always include these provisions. It’s not uncommon to see end of life decision making included as well.

Durable Power of Attorney does have their limits. It cannot grant attorneys-in-fact access to any joint asset accounts.

Does an Attorney-in-Fact need to be a Lawyer?

Nope! It can be anyone the signee trusts to be his/her representative. Remember, only licensed attorney can practice law.

Attorneys-in-fact are sometimes a close friend, but could also be a caseworker or therapist. They are not required to be lawyers, but should still be reliable and trustworthy. It’s important to thoroughly consider all options before making a decision.