A durable power of attorney (DPOA) is a signed document authorizing another to act on your behalf. It is called “durable” because it remains effective even if you become incapacitated after it is signed and are unable to handle matters on your own.
A DPOA can be as broad or as restricted as the circumstances require. For example, you may wish to use a DPOA for a limited purpose and duration such as to authorize another (called your “agent”) to sign a deed for you within the next 30 days, after which time it becomes ineffective, or you can authorize your agent to act for you as to all of your assets, i.e., write and sign checks, make deposits and withdrawals, and change investments. You may also authorize your agent to apply for and collect Government benefits on your behalf or to make living arrangements for you. Really, you can authorize your agent to do pretty much anything that you could do personally.
There two types of DPOAs: (1) current, and (2) springing. A current DPOA is effective as soon as it is signed. A parent, for example, may authorize a child to handle routine banking and bill paying. The DPOA does not limit the principal’s ability to attend to these matters personally; it just may be easier to have another do it for you.
A springing DPOA, although signed, does not become effective until a future event occurs, when it “springs” into action. That event is generally incapacity of some sort whereby the principal becomes unable to handle the functions that are set forth in the DPOA. Under such circumstances, the agent generally must provide evidence of the incapacity (often a letter from a physician) before a bank, for example, will allow the DPOA to be used.
Another type of springing DPOA is a health care directive. This DPOA authorizes your agent to make health care decisions on your behalf—including decisions that could end your life—when you are unable to do so as in the case of severe illness or coma.
When deciding to use a DPOA, it is a good idea to have a back-up person in case the designated agent also become unable to carry out his job.
Under Michigan law, your agent is a fiduciary (someone who owes you a high degree of care) and must follow, and be limited by, the authority granted in your DPOA.
Finally, a DPOA of any sort, is effective only while you are alive. Upon death, it becomes completely ineffective.