A Durable Power of Attorney is an instrument authorizing another to act as one's agent or "attorney-in-fact" and generally used only when and if you ever become incapacitated or no longer wish to handle things yourself. In order to be durable it must remain effective in the event of disability and/or incapacity. Virginia law treats a power of attorney as durable unless it specifically says it is not. The durable power of attorney allows the person you choose to step in and take care of your financial affairs. Without a power of attorney, no one can represent you unless a court appoints a conservator or guardian. That court process takes time, costs money, and the judge may not choose the person you would prefer.
A power of attorney may be limited or general. A limited power of attorney may give someone the right to sign a deed to property on a day when you are out of town. Or it may allow someone to sign checks for you. A general power is comprehensive and can give your attorney-in-fact all the powers and rights that you have yourself. Some matters such as the power to make gifts or establish trusts need to be specifically addressed.
A power of attorney may be either current or "springing." Most powers of attorney take effect immediately upon their execution, even if the understanding is that they will not be used until and unless the grantor becomes incapacitated. However, the document can also be written so that it does not become effective until such incapacity occurs. In such cases, it is very important that the standard for determining incapacity and triggering the power of attorney be clearly laid out in the document itself.
When you give an agent a power of attorney you are not giving up the right to take action or make personal decisions yourself. You are just adding another person who can act for you, and you will be bound by their authorized acts.
A power of attorney, even a durable power of attorney, if not sooner revoked, ends at your death. When naming a person to serve as your agent under a power of attorney it is wise to name at least one successor agent in case your named agent dies or becomes unable or unwilling to serve.
For powers of attorney dealing with real estate it is important to make them in recordable form in compliance with Virginia recordation laws. Additionally, if real estate is located in another state there may be additional requirements which that state imposes for recording deeds and powers of attorney.