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. In order to be durable it must remain effective in the event of disability and/or incapacity. 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 gives your attorney-in-fact all the powers and rights that you have yourself.

A power of attorney may also 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.