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LEGAL DICTIONARY

Attorney in Fact

An Attorney-in-Fact is a person appointed by an individual (known as the principal), who is legally empowered to act on their behalf for legal or financial matters according to a notarized and fully active power of attorney (POA) document.

Once selected and instated, the Attorney-in-Fact, also commonly known as an agent or madatary, is able to perform a number of duties for the principal. These fiduciary duties are normally outlined in the initial agreement and can be done without the appointing individual being present

An Attorney-in-Fact is quite different from an Attorney-at-Law. First of all, the person appointed as Attorney-in-Fact does not need to be a legal professional.

The agent named in a Power of Attorney agreement can be anyone that the appointing individual chooses. They should be someone they trust and must be legally competent to enter into a legal agreement by being over 18-years of age and sound of mind.

An Attorney-at-Law, on the other hand, needs to be fully expert in law and accredited to practice. They must possess a full Juris Doctor (JD) qualification and must have passed their state’s BAR exam. You are not required to use an Attorney-at-Law as an agent but can do so if you choose.

Powers and Duties of an Attorney-in-Fact

Once a Power of Attorney form has been completed and brought into use, an agent can perform many different tasks for the principal. This, however, depends on the type of POA which is in use.

General Power of Attorney

General Power of Attorneys normally come to an end when they are revoked or the principal is incapacitated. Therefore the responsibilities focus almost exclusively on handling financial matters for the individual. This can include the following:

  • Managing, buying and selling real estate
  • Buying and selling stocks
  • Making business transactions
  • Collecting government and military pensions
  • Paying bills and debts
  • Cashing checks
  • Opening and closing bank accounts

Durable or Medical Power of Attorney

The Attorney-in-Fact’s role for a Durable Power of Attorney can differ significantly in nature from a General POA. This is because durable documents may continue to be used even if the principal is incapacitated. These will normally continue in use until the death of the appointing individual.

A financial Durable POA offers many of the same powers as a General POA. However, another form of Durable Power of Attorney is a Medical POA, which requires very different arrangements to be made for the principal.

Medical POAs focus on healthcare decisions for incapacitated individuals. This empowers agents to make choices for a principal on the following subjects:

  • End of life care
  • Treatment plans
  • Which doctors or specialists can perform on the patient
  • Approving or denying medical treatment