The Durable Power of Attorney (often referred to simply as a POA) is a document that allows someone to act on your behalf in the event that you become incapacitated or are otherwise unavailable. To use a little bit of terminology from the document, the person granting authority is called the Principal and the person who has the authority to act is called the Agent. Imagine going to the BMV to renew license plates for a vehicle that is titled in your spouse’s name. The BMV clerk will ask for a POA form. The vehicle owner spouse is the Principal and the non-owner spouse is the Agent. A Durable Power of Attorney is valid once signed and terminates upon one’s death. The reason that the word Durable is added is to demonstrate that the Agent has authority even if the Principal becomes incapacitated It is ready to go so that, for example, your spouse (or whoever you name as your agent) could sign your name at a closing to refinance your mortgage if you were out of town. There are several other powers that a principal may grant in this important estate planning document.

Without a Durable Power of Attorney, if you became incapacitated, a guardian would have to be appointed to take care of all of your financial affairs. If a person dies without leaving a Will, Ohio law has a set of laws to determine who gets all of your assets. These laws essentially would ensure that after death your assets get distributed to your family. There is no analogous provision for someone who has become incapacitated. There is not a law that someone is the default person to step in and take care of your financial affairs. For this reason, having a Power of Attorney might be more important than having a Will.