Sometimes our clients mistakenly believe that their spouse automatically has power of attorney. The answer to the question in our title is no, but it is important to understand why this is the case and how to correct the problem.
What Is Power of Attorney?
Power of attorney refers to a legal document that allows someone else to make decisions or sign legal documents on your behalf. For example, you may execute a power of attorney to allow someone else to sell your home without you present, to give a person access to your brokerage accounts while you are traveling abroad, or to make medical decisions for you in a situation where you are unconscious or otherwise unable to make your own choices.
When a power of attorney is executed, you determine the extent of responsibility given to the person. For example, in the scenarios noted above, you may decide that a different person will be responsible for making financial decisions than the person who is designated to make medical decisions.
Why the Confusion?
In short, people think their mate has power of attorney since many documents may already be in the names of both individuals. For example, you may both be able to write checks and make deposits on your bank account, but that is because both of you are named to the account. Your home may automatically pass to your mate if you die, but that may be because both names are on the deed.
Executing a Power of Attorney in San Diego
If you need to execute a document to give power of attorney to an individual, regardless of the scope or the timeframe, Petrov Law Firm can help. Our San Diego, Chula Vista, and North County offices are conveniently located for our southern California clients. Call 619-344-0360 to schedule an appointment.Read More
The short answer is no, but here is the reason why. A power of attorney is a document that allows you to name an agent to take financial, legal, or medical actions on your behalf (depending on the type of document that you are executing). Here are a few things your agent may do for you:
- Sell your house
- Access your brokerage accounts
- Decide whether you will accept a medical treatment
Of course, a power of attorney may not approve your agent to do all of those things. You control how much authority the agent has when you execute a power of attorney. You may execute a document that allows an agent to care for one financial or legal matter and that is all.
Your spouse only has control of assets that you share or that you have given your spouse power of attorney over. Here are some examples:
- You may give your spouse the judgment call of when to take you off of life support equipment.
- Your spouse can access a bank account that is in both of your names.
- You can make your spouse a trustee, beneficiary, executor of your will, or appoint him or her to any other number of positions.
Executing a Power of Attorney in California
So being married to you or even having a power of attorney document signed doesn’t give any one person control over all aspects of your life. You want your estate plan to clearly outline who gets control of what in the event that you are incapacitated or unable to make your own decisions for a time. Petrov Law Firm can help you to assign agents to care for necessary matters while giving you the ability to regain control should you change your mind about an agent or recover from an incapacitating ailment. Call 619-344-0360 today to get started.Read More