Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney is a document that gives someone else the right to act as if they were you. You can use a power of attorney to appoint someone to handle your affairs. People often use powers of attorney to appoint someone to handle their medical or financial affairs. In some cases, people also use a power of attorney to delegate authority over minor children. You can always change or revoke a power of attorney as long as you are competent.

A power of attorney can be as broad or as limited as you want. You should be very careful about what powers you give someone else, as these powers are often abused. Because you are giving someone power to act for you, you may want to talk to an attorney. Giving someone limited power may be better than giving them full power over your affairs.

How do I choose an agent?

You should be very careful when choosing your agent. It should be someone you trust to act in your best interests.

Before you name someone as your agent, you should talk to that person about it and get his or her consent. The person you choose as your agent should know that he or she has a duty of trust and must always act in your best interests. You can also name an alternate agent to act for you if your first choice cannot.

How do I create a medical power of attorney?

In Utah, there is a specific form for creating the medical power of attorney. This form is called the Utah Advance Healthcare Directive. If you would like someone to help you with your medical affairs when you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself, you should complete a Utah Advance Healthcare Directive.

The Utah Advance Healthcare Directive contains two parts. The first part allows you to choose someone to assist you with your medical affairs. This person is called the agent. The second part allows you to instruct your healthcare providers on your wishes for medical treatment, such as life support, organ donation, etc.

You do not need an attorney to complete the form. The form also does not have to be notarized. You only need a disinterested witness.

You can find the form for the Utah Advance Healthcare Directive and instructions for completing it in both English and Spanish here: http://aging.utah.edu/programs/utah-coa/directives/

How do I create a power of attorney to have someone care for my minor children?

In some cases you can give some of your rights as a parent to someone else using a power of attorney. This type of power of attorney will only last for up to six months. This kind of power of attorney may not work in all cases. For instance, schools generally require more than a power of attorney from someone who is not a parent or guardian.

The form for creating this type of power of attorney is available on the Utah Court’s website at www.utcourts.gov/howto/family/Power_of_Attorney/.   

What do I do once I have created a power of attorney?

Once the power of attorney is signed, give the original to the person you chose as your agent. If your agent has the original, he or she can show the document to your doctor or a bank as proof of his or her power.

If your agent has the power to make decisions about any houses, buildings or land you own, then you need to file the power of attorney with the County Clerk’s office. File the document in the county where the property is located.

How long does a power of attorney last?

You can choose how long a power of attorney will last, unless otherwise limited by the law. For example, you can make it as short as a few weeks while you are out of the country.  You can also make it take effect only after a certain event occurs, such as your disability. 

My mother has Alzheimer’s disease. Can I get a power of attorney for her?

No. Your mother is the only one who can create the power of attorney. If she has Alzheimer’s, she may not be considered competent enough to create one. However, you may seek a guardianship or conservatorship instead. 

What is the difference between a power of attorney and a guardianship?

Like a power of attorney, a guardianship allows someone else to act for you. You cannot make someone your guardian on your own. A guardianship is granted by a judge. The person who wants to be your guardian must apply for guardianship through the courts.

Guardianships are granted when a person cannot take care of him or herself. Guardianships may be granted to take care of both adults and children.  For more information about guardianship, click here.

The information in this site is not intended as legal advice.
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assisted "Lisa" who is a disabled lady on Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI); wheelchair-bound and on oxygen 24/7.  "Lisa" received a $42,000 settlement last fall, paid as a result of a death from cancer.  "Lisa" reported the settlement to the Social Security Administration (SSA) as required, but she didn’t understand the rules regarding disposing of a resource.  "Lisa" spent the majority of the money wisely, as required—she bought herself a home to live in, prepaid some expenses for a year, bought some furniture, bought a freezer, filled it with food, etc.  Unfortunately, she also gave approximately $13,000 away to various family members for one reason or another. 

 

As a result, she incurred an SSI overpayment for the months she was over the resource limit of $2,000.  Utah Legal Services was able to get the overpayment waived, but then the really bad news—SSA sanctioned her for giving away part of her resources.  She was terminated from SSI for 19 months.  Of course, she also had no money left from her settlement.  This would have been an extremely harsh blow to her, since she has no other income, is disabled, and relies on oxygen and multiple medications to sustain her life.  ULS called SSA and pointed out their provision in statute which allows an “out” for undue hardship.  Within 30 minutes, ULS received a call from SSA letting us know that "Lisa" would receive the two months’ benefits that had been withheld already, and her benefits would start again immediately.