Table of Contents
- Download a California Power of Attorney Template
- California Power of Attorney Requirements
- Obtaining a CA Power of Attorney
- Examples of Duties Handled
- Terms of the Document
- Revoking a Power of Attorney
1. Download a California Power of Attorney Template
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2. California Power of Attorney Requirements
In California, any individual over the age of 18 who can read and understand a contract can create a power of attorney. Any power of attorney, which is a document that gives a person the legal authority to handle specific daily tasks on another’s behalf, must comply with regulations outlined in the California Probate Code (Sections 4000 through 4465).
The person who seeks a power of attorney is known as the principal. The agent or attorney-in-fact is the person appointed to represent the principal. Banks, insurance companies, and other entities widely accept power of attorney documents to handle tasks, such as filing taxes, and managing bank accounts and insurance policies.
Benefits of a Power of Attorney
Powers of attorney are important, especially when it comes to estate and asset protection planning. Drafting an appropriate power of attorney can protect a principal’s assets if a person suddenly falls ill or gets into an accident and is unable to handle daily tasks. Without this document, the ability to protect an individual’s assets is dramatically restricted. Also, selling or transferring property, as well as stocks and bonds, is more difficult without a valid power of attorney.
Power of Attorney PDF Sample
The power of attorney (POA) sample below gives “Agent” Louie P Smith the authority to make financial decisions in the event that “Principal” Stacie C Powell is incapacitated. Louie has the authority to handle issues dealing with Stacie’s property, stocks, insurance, and business.California Power of Attorney (Financial)
3. Obtaining a CA Power of Attorney
The Uniform Statutory Form Power of Attorney Act (California Probate Code sections 4400-4465) is vague in terms of the powers that agents are permitted to handle.
The form can be downloaded from the Sacramento County Public Law Library, but individuals are not required to use California’s form. However, California recommends using similar language to what is used in its form. A downloadable Advanced Health Care Directive is available on the site, as well.
The California form references transactions, including:
- Real property
- Tangible personal property
- Stock and bond
- Commodity and option
- Banking and other financial
- Business operating
- Insurance and annuity
- Estate, trust, and other beneficiary
- Claims and litigation
- Personal and family maintenance
- Benefits from Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, other government programs
- Retirement plans
Principals pick and choose which transactions they want agents to handle. They also can write special instructions, limiting or extending agents’ powers.
Customizing a Power of Attorney
The more specific a document, the better it will serve the principal. Individuals who opt to create their own power of attorney document must include their names, their agent’s name, the date, and the acts that agents have the power to handle.
4. Examples of Duties Handled
A power of attorney authorizes an agent to handle duties, such as:
- Negotiate and sign contracts for purchases, such as homes or vehicles
- Handle banking transactions, including deposits and withdrawals
- Pay bills
- Buy or sell property
- File tax returns with the IRS
- Arrange the distribution of retirement benefits
- Apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or California Medical Assistance Program (Medi-Cal) benefits
The above are just examples; an agent can do almost anything if it is listed in a power of attorney. The principal also can restrict types of financial decisions an agent can make.
This document does not authorize another individual to make decisions about health and medical matters. A California Advance Health Care Directive gives an agent the authority to make medical decisions, such as whether or not to end life support, for a principal. The directive includes a health care power of attorney, a living will, and provisions for organ donation.
Even if a power of attorney contains a phrase, such as “all other powers are granted,” there are certain tasks that agents cannot perform. According to Probate Code Section 4264, an agent cannot make or change a will. However, an agent can establish a trust for the principal if it is specifically noted in the document.
In California, an agent also can only use a principal’s assets if they are specifically gifted to him or her. It is illegal for agents to make gifts to themselves. An attorney-in-fact that takes money or property of a principal who is 65 or older without consent can be charged with elder abuse.
5. Terms of the Document
Unless a principal specifically outlines in the document when the power of attorney begins, it is effective immediately and continues until it is revoked.
The document also should state whether or not it continues to be effective once a principal becomes incapacitated. A document that continues when the principal becomes incapacitated is known as a “durable” power of attorney, and it ends upon death. A principal can cancel a durable power of attorney; however, if there are any signs of mental incapacity, it can be challenged. A power of attorney that begins when a principal loses his/her mental capacity is known as a “swinging” power of attorney.
Ensuring a Power of Attorney is Legal
To validate a power of attorney, it must be signed by the person seeking it. If the person seeking it is unable to sign, the person must direct another to sign it on his/her behalf and watch said person provide a signature. Also, if the document is drawn up for an agent to handle financial matters, it must be notarized or signed in front of two other witnesses. In California, if the power of attorney entitles an agent to sell or transfer real estate, the document must be notarized and recorded in the county recorder’s office where the property is located.
To ensure the legality of a health care directive, it must be signed by the principal in front of two witnesses. The two witnesses also must sign the directive. The principal’s agent, health care provider, or an employee of the provider cannot be witnesses.
6. Revoking a Power of Attorney
Since agents can gain access to bank accounts, cancel insurance policies, and handle other sensitive transactions, the individual chosen to take on this role should be trustworthy and competent.
If a problem arises with a power of attorney, a principal can end the arrangement at any time with a revocation of power of attorney. It should be cancelled in writing, and the new statement should be provided to any entities that had the old power of attorney. Providing parties, such as banks and insurance companies, with the newest version ensures it doesn’t enforce the wrong document.
If loved ones or officials learn of problems with an agent, they can file a petition with the California Probate Department and ask the court to review the agent’s actions and determine whether the issue needs further investigation.