Powers and duties of an attorney in fact

While previous posts have discussed how estate administration works after a California resident dies, there are many occasions in which someone in the San Jose area may still be alive yet require help managing their property and business affairs.

In some cases, they may be totally unable to handle their own finances, while in other cases, they may just need a little extra assistance due to age or illness.

To handle these sorts of situations, a California resident can use a power of attorney to appoint a trusted person as an attorney in fact. As an attorney in fact, the person can be given very broad authority over the principal's finances.

These powers can include the right to buy, sell and manage both real estate as well as one's personal property, including important investments like stocks, bonds, bank accounts and other financial instruments.

An attorney in fact can even pay taxes, sue in the name of the principal and hire other professionals to the extent doing so is necessary for the administration of the estate.

At the same time, an attorney in fact also has several responsibilities to the principal. To summarize them, the attorney in fact must keep the principal's affairs properly separated and act only the best interest of the principal. Any form of self-dealing is prohibited.

An attorney in fact must therefore be careful and attentive to details when it comes to administering a principal's affairs. Even a well-meaning person can wind up in a lot of legal trouble if he or she carelessly handles his or her duties as attorney in fact. Getting the help of a legal professional with experience in estate administration can be an important first step.

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