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Understanding Durable Power of Attorney: A Safety Net for Your Future

Posted by James Burns | Apr 20, 2024 | 0 Comments


According to the American Bar Association, "approximately 1.3 million adults in the United States are unable to make their own decisions due to incapacity" (Source: American Bar Association, "Revocation of Durable Power of Attorney"). A Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) is a crucial legal document that ensures someone you trust can make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. In this blog post, we will delve into the importance of DPOA, its benefits, and essential considerations to keep in mind.


What is a Durable Power of Attorney?

A Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document that authorizes someone (the "agent" or "attorney-in-fact") to make decisions on behalf of another person (the "principal") if they become incapacitated due to illness, injury, or cognitive decline. This document remains in effect even if the principal becomes incapacitated, hence the term "durable." A DPOA can be broad or limited in scope, granting the agent authority over financial, legal, healthcare, or personal matters.


Actionable Tip: Create a DPOA while you are still mentally and physically capable, to ensure your wishes are respected. Consider including a "springing" provision, which only grants authority to the agent if you become incapacitated.


Mistake to Avoid: Failing to specify the scope of authority granted to the agent, leading to potential abuse or mismanagement of assets. Be sure to clearly define the agent's powers and limitations.


Benefits of a Durable Power of Attorney

  1. Avoids Conservatorship: A DPOA prevents the need for a conservatorship, which can be a lengthy and costly legal process. Conservatorships can also lead to loss of control and autonomy.


  1. Maintains Control: You choose who will make decisions for you, ensuring your wishes are respected. This can provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones.


  1. Flexibility: A DPOA can be tailored to your specific needs and circumstances. You can grant authority over specific assets, accounts, or decisions.


  1. Reduces Stress: Knowing someone you trust can handle your affairs can reduce anxiety and stress for you and your family.


  1. Saves Time and Money: A DPOA can avoid the need for costly legal proceedings, such as guardianships or conservatorships.


California Case Law and Statutes

  • California Probate Code Section 4121: Defines the requirements for a valid DPOA, including the need for the principal's signature, date, and witness signatures.


  • California Probate Code Section 4134: Specifies the duties and responsibilities of the agent, including the duty to act in the principal's best interests.


  • Conservatorship of Wendland (2001) 26 Cal.4th 519: Emphasizes the importance of respecting the principal's autonomy and wishes, even if they become incapacitated.


Common Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Not specifying the scope of authority: Clearly define the agent's powers and limitations to avoid potential abuse or mismanagement.


  1. Not choosing the right agent: Select someone trustworthy, responsible, and able to handle the responsibilities. Consider their availability, expertise, and potential conflicts of interest.


  1. Not updating the document: Review and update the DPOA periodically to reflect changes in your life and circumstances, such as a move or change in assets.


  1. Not considering alternative decision-makers: Identify alternative agents in case the primary agent is unable or unwilling to serve.


  1. Not storing the document securely: Keep the original document in a safe and accessible location, such as a fireproof safe or secure online storage.


Real-Life Example

Meet Sarah: A 65-year-old retired teacher who suffers a severe stroke, leaving her unable to communicate or manage her affairs. Her daughter, Emily, had previously been designated as her agent through a DPOA. Emily can now make decisions regarding Sarah's medical care, finances, and living arrangements, ensuring her mother's wishes are respected.


Meet John: A 45-year-old entrepreneur who is involved in a severe car accident, leaving him in a coma. His business partner, Michael, had been designated as his agent through a DPOA, allowing Michael to manage John's business affairs and make financial decisions.



A Durable Power of Attorney is a vital legal document that ensures your wishes are respected and your affairs are managed according to your preferences. By understanding the benefits and considerations of a DPOA, you can create a safety net for your future. Don't wait until it's too late – consult with an experienced attorney to create or update your DPOA today.


Action to Take

If you have questions or concerns about Durable Power of Attorney, contact the Law Office of James Burns at (949) 305-8642 or visit (link unavailable) With over 24 years of experience, James Burns can guide you through the process and provide expert legal advice.


Additional Resources

  • American Bar Association: "Revocation of Durable Power of Attorney"
  • California Probate Code: Sections 4121 and 4134
  • National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys: "Durable Power of Attorney"


Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the difference between a DPOA and a living will?
    • A DPOA grants authority to an agent to make decisions on your behalf, while a living will specifies your wishes for medical treatment in the event of incapacity.


  1. Can I revoke a DPOA?
    • Yes, you can revoke a DPOA at any time, as long as you are mentally competent.


  1. Do I need a lawyer to create a DPOA?
    • While not required, it is recommended to consult with an experienced attorney to ensure your DPOA is legally binding and meets your specific needs.

About the Author

James Burns

Estate Planning, Asset Protection, Business and Real Estate Transactions, nutraceutical Law and franchising:


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