Glossary: Attorney-in-Fact

Attorney-in-fact is the official designation given to the person you name to make decisions on your behalf. This is done by signing a power of attorney.

An attorney-in-fact is not necessarily a lawyer. In fact, attorneys-in-fact don’t require any special qualifications at all. They can be a family member or close friend. An attorney-in-fact is someone who is designated to act on behalf of another person, whether in business, financial or personal matters.

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An attorney-in-fact is designated through the granting of power of attorney, usually by the person who will be represented. Sometimes the courts can assign an individual power of attorney for another person if the latter has become incapacitated.

Your attorney-in-fact must be careful with your money and other property. State laws require an attorney-in-fact to act as a prudent person would under the circumstances. That means the primary goal is not to lose your money.

The attorney-in-fact may, however, make careful investment moves on your behalf. For example, if your money is in a low-interest bank account, the attorney-in-fact might invest the money in government bonds, which pay higher interest but are still very safe.

The power-of-attorney and designation of an attorney-in-fact is an important part of lifetime planning. A power of attorney is accepted in all states, but the rules and requirements differ from state to state. In Louisiana it is called a Procuration. A power of attorney gives one or more persons the power to act on your behalf as your agent. The power may be limited to a particular activity, such as closing the sale of your home, or be general in its application. The power may give temporary or permanent authority to act on your behalf.

The power granted by a power of attorney may take effect immediately, or only upon the occurrence of a future event, usually a determination that you are unable to act for yourself due to mental or physical disability. The latter is called a “springing” power of attorney. A power of attorney may be revoked, but most states require written notice of revocation to the person named to act for you.

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