What is a representation agreement (or power of attorney) and how do I make one?

UPDATED: Jul 18, 2023Fact Checked

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Jeffrey Johnson

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 18, 2023

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UPDATED: Jul 18, 2023Fact Checked

If you’ve ever been concerned about who might handle your affairs should you become ill or pass away – or if you simply do not feel you’re the best person to handle certain legal decisions that come your way – then you may want to think about setting up a representation agreement, also called power of attorney, for yourself.

Representation agreements are useful, versatile legal contracts that most people are aware exist, but which not everyone understands. The following are frequently asked questions that should help explain exactly what power of attorney is and how it might benefit you.

Q: What exactly is “power of attorney”?

A: Power of attorney is a legal agreement that allows you to designate another person (known as your “agent”) to handle certain decisions on your behalf, or under certain circumstances (such as your illness or death).

Q: Can I specify what the agent is responsible for handling?

A: Yes, power of attorney is fairly flexible in terms of what specific “powers” you want the agent to have. You, as the “principal” in the contract, may give your agent power over specific types of decisions. For example, perhaps you would like a spouse or family member to be legally allowed to handle all transactions regarding property that you own. You may set up that person as agent, with power to handle your property-related transactions. Alternatively, you may only be concerned about who will handle your affairs in the event that you cannot do so; in that case, you can set up what is called a “springing” power of attorney that will only come into effect in a situation where you legally cannot make the decision yourself.

Q: What are the steps involved in setting up a power of attorney agreement?

A: Setting up a power of attorney is really quite simple. There is a specific legal form designed just for this purpose that you can get from an estate planning lawyer or from anywhere legal documents are offered.You may be able to find a copy with a simple online search. Once you have the form, you should fill it out completely, along with your chosen agent, who needs to understand the form and all of the information as clearly as you do. If either of you have questions about what the form is asking, or are unsure how to fill it out, a brief visit to a local attorney is an absolute must. It’s vital to ensure the form is completed properly, since you don’t want to leave your affairs up to chance.

Once the forms are completed, you and your agent need to sign them in front of a notary public. At that time, you should make copies and store one in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box. Your agent should be given the original copy so that he or she has legal proof that they are authorized to act on your behalf.

Power of attorney is relatively simple to set up, but it’s not a decision to take lightly. Think carefully about who to choose as your agent and what responsibilities you want them to have, and make sure to have an honest, open conversation with that person to ensure that both of you understand what you expect from the agreement. Once you’ve done the work and filled out the documents, you should feel some peace of mind: setting up power of attorney is one of the most responsible things you can do for yourself and your legal affairs.

Case Studies: Benefits of Representation Agreements

Case Study 1: Property Management

Mr. Smith, a retired individual, owns multiple properties and wants to ensure they are managed effectively in case of incapacity. He sets up a power of attorney agreement designating his daughter, Sarah, as his agent.

The agreement grants Sarah the power to handle all property-related transactions on Mr. Smith’s behalf. This allows Sarah to handle rental agreements, property maintenance, and other related matters, ensuring Mr. Smith’s properties are well-managed even if he cannot personally oversee them.

Case Study 2: Medical Decision-Making

Mrs. Johnson is concerned about who would make important medical decisions for her if she becomes unable to do so. She establishes a springing power of attorney agreement, specifying that her son, Michael, will become her agent only if she is medically unable to make decisions herself. This arrangement ensures that Michael can advocate for his mother’s medical needs and make informed decisions based on her preferences in the event she becomes incapacitated.

Case Study 3: Financial Affairs

Ms. Thompson is a successful businesswoman who frequently travels abroad for work. She wants to have someone trustworthy handle her financial affairs while she is away. Ms. Thompson appoints her sister, Emily, as her agent through a power of attorney agreement.

The agreement outlines specific financial powers granted to Emily, such as managing bank accounts, paying bills, and conducting financial transactions. With this arrangement in place, Ms. Thompson can confidently focus on her professional commitments, knowing her financial matters are in capable hands.

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Jeffrey Johnson

Insurance Lawyer

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Insurance Lawyer

Mary Martin

Published Legal Expert

Mary Martin has been a legal writer and editor for over 20 years, responsible for ensuring that content is straightforward, correct, and helpful for the consumer. In addition, she worked on writing monthly newsletter columns for media, lawyers, and consumers. Ms. Martin also has experience with internal staff and HR operations. Mary was employed for almost 30 years by the nationwide legal publi...

Published Legal Expert

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

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