A power of attorney is one of the most commonly used legal documents, primarily because of its many uses. The concept behind a power of attorney, or POA, is simple. A Principal grants an Agent the authority to act on behalf of the Principal in legal matters and transactions. The extent of the authority granted to the Agent depends on the type of POA created by the Principal. If you are the Agent under a POA you may wonder if there are limits to the authority you have as an Agent. For example, can you use a power of attorney for Social Security purposes?
A POA can be either general or “specific”, also referred to as “limited.” If a Principal gives a limited or specific POA you will only have the power and authority enumerated in the POA agreement. For example, you might be given limited POA to consent to medical treatment for the Principal’s minor children while in your care or to represent the Principal in the sale of a vehicle while the Principal is out of town. With a general POA, however, an Agent typically has almost limitless power and authority. As an Agent with general POA you can do things such as enter into a contract in the Principal’s name, buy or sell assets of the Principal, or even withdraw funds from the Principal’s bank account. There are, however, limits to the authority granted in a general POA. More specifically, there are situations in which even a general POA is insufficient for you to act on behalf of the Principal.
The Social Security Administration, for example, will not accept your authority under even a general POA. Instead, if you wish to negotiate with the SSA on behalf of someone else and/or receive benefits on behalf of someone else you will have to apply to be a representative payee. To do that, you must visit your local SSA office and submit Form SSA-11. If the form is approved, all benefits for the beneficiary will be sent directly to you until further notice and you will have the authority to discuss the beneficiary’s account with the SSA. The SSA is only one of several federal government agencies that may refuse to honor the authority granted in a power of attorney so be sure to check before assuming your authority under a power of attorney will be honored.
If you have additional questions or concerns about using your authority as an Agent under a power of attorney, or about your Illinois estate plan in general, contact the experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.
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