December 20, 2022

What is a Durable Power of Attorney?

As you prepare to plan your estate, one of the top elements include assigning your Durable Power of Attorney. However, understanding the responsibilities of your Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) is essential if you hope to protect yourself.

With help from an experienced Missouri estate planning attorney at David S. Schleiffarth, LLC, you can get the answers you have been looking for. Contact our office for an initial consultation today to learn more about how durable power of attorney works and whether you should include one as part of your estate plans.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document that gives another party permission to make decisions on behalf of someone else. The person implementing the power of attorney document is known as the principal, while the person responsible for making decisions will be known as the agent.

The power of attorney and durable power of attorney are similar in that they can both be used to make financial or healthcare decisions. However, while power of attorneys are only in effect until you become incapacitated, durable power of attorneys remain in effect after you become incapacitated or pass away.

Types of Power of Attorney

There are two primary types of powers of attorney. These include medical power of attorney and financial power of attorney.

The medical power of attorney is responsible for making decisions on behalf of the principal. This includes determining what types of medical interventions should be made, if any, including the use of breathing or feeding tubes, or other extraordinary measures.

The financial power of attorney is designed to handle the principal’s business or financial matters. This might include the purchase or sale of real estate, business transactions, or covering the principal’s living expenses and bills.

Your power of attorney authorizes a single individual, known as the agent, to make these decisions on your behalf should you become temporarily or permanently unable to do so through incapacitation or death. However, there are some responsibilities power of attorney is cannot take on, including:

  • Amending or revoking the principal’s will
  • Voting on behalf of the principal
  • Violating the terms of the DPOA
  • Using the DPOA using the principal’s assets for their own financial purposes

How Power of Attorney Works in Missouri

Power of attorney can be assigned when the principal signs the power of attorney documents giving the agent the authority to handle their financial or medical matters. This will remain in effect until the principal party passes away, whereby the power of attorney may be invalidated or revoked.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney?

A durable power of attorney is similar to a traditional power of attorney except that the durable power of attorney responsibilities will remain active even if the principal becomes mentally incapacitated or disabled. Traditionally, the power of attorney will not be effective after the principal becomes incapacitated or is found mentally incompetent.

However, as the principal, you have the authority to choose your physicians and ensure that your durable power of attorney documents become active immediately after they have been signed as opposed to after you have been declared incapacitated.

Benefits of a Durable Power of Attorney

There are many benefits to choosing a durable power of attorney. These include:

  • Avoiding expensive court costs
  • Avoiding a potential conservatorship
  • The principal retains the right to revoke the durable power of attorney
  • The agent can be required to maintain meticulous records
  • The principal can be specific about what the agent can handle and authorize

Risks of Having a Durable Power of Attorney

Some of the cons of having a durable power of attorney include:

  • Lack of court monitoring or oversight
  • Power of attorney ends when the principal dies
  • Power of attorney cannot be used to settle the terms of an estate
  • Power of attorney can only be decided when the principal is competent

Does Durable Power of Attorney Expire?

The durable power of attorney will generally end when the durable power of attorney dies, can no longer uphold their duties or responsibilities, or the POA is invalidated by the court.

What is a Power of Attorney Agent?

Your power of attorney agent is the individual or entity you select to act as your durable power of attorney. This is the party who will be responsible for making your financial and medical decisions as described in your DPOA documents. Some of the responsibilities of your DPOA agent might include:

  • Selling or buying real estate
  • Paying debts
  • Making end-of-life arrangements
  • Michael decisions
  • Recordkeeping
  • Handling taxes

Since agents are required to act in the best interest of the principal, failure to do so could result in potential civil or criminal liability.

Who Can Act as Your Agent?

You have the right to choose whoever you want as your agent. However, your DPOA should be at least 18 years of age and have the mental capacity to handle these important financial and medical decisions. 

Many individuals choose their adult children or spouses to act as a successor agent or co-agent may be in your best interests if you hope to ensure your finances and medical decisions are protected as you have instructed in your estate plans.

When Does Someone’s Power of Attorney Become Active?

Your power of attorney can only become active in three situations. These include:

  • Springing power of attorney, which becomes active when the principal becomes incapacitated
  • Durable power of attorney, which becomes active once the principal signs it
  • Non-durable power of attorney, which becomes active once the DPOA is signed but ends when the principal becomes incapacitated

In many cases, getting your durable power of attorney documents notarized may be in your best interests. However, simply signing and dating the document will make it legally binding.

Who Should Have a Durable Power of Attorney?

It is better to have a durable power of attorney in place than to not have one. Any time you have any sort of financial assets for minor children, having a durable power of attorney in place can help protect both you and your children should you become incapacitated or pass away. 

Without a power of attorney, the court system will be responsible for making decisions on your behalf or appointing someone to make decisions on your behalf. You are also at risk of being taken advantage of by family members who you were previously estranged from or have a history of using you to further their own interests.

Get Help From a Durable Power of Attorney Lawyer in Missouri Today

Having a durable power of attorney included in your estate plans is important if you hope to protect yourself should you become incapacitated, unstable, or otherwise unable to make financial or medical decisions for yourself. 
Take steps to ensure your estate plans so there is no question as to the responsibilities of your durable power of attorney. Schedule your initial consultation with a reputable Missouri estate planning attorney at The Law Office of David S. Schleiffarth, LLC as soon as today. You can reach us through our quick contact form or by phone to get started.


This article represents the opinion of the author and is intended for educational purposes. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. One should always consult with an experienced attorney before making estate planning decisions.

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