Attorney in Fact vs Power of Attorney: What’s the Difference?

Attorney in fact and power of attorney are two different things, but they both apply to legal documents that can assist you in your day-to-day life as well as make sure your financial affairs are taken care of if you’re not able to do it on your own. These two terms are often confused and used interchangeably, but there are some key differences that set them apart. Read on to find out more about these important documents and how they can help your family succeed after you pass away or get incapacitated.

An Overview of an Attorney-in-Fact
An attorney-in-fact is an individual who is legally authorized to act on another person’s behalf. This relationship is typically created by a written document, such as a power of attorney. The authority granted to an attorney-in-fact can be very broad or very limited, depending on the terms of the power of attorney. In general, an attorney-in-fact has the same legal authority as the person who appointed them, except in cases where that authority is specifically limited by the power of attorney.

The Key Differences Between Having an Agent and an Attorney-in-Fact
An agent is someone who is legally authorized to act on another person’s behalf. An attorney-in-fact, on the other hand, is a person who has been granted authority by a power of attorney to act on someone else’s behalf.
The main difference between an agent and an attorney-in-fact is that an agent is usually a professional, such as a lawyer or accountant, while an attorney-in-fact can be anyone the grantor appoints.

An Example of an Attorney-in-Fact
Let’s say you want to give your son the authority to handle your finances while you’re out of the country for an extended period of time. You would name him as your attorney-in-fact on a durable power of attorney form. As your attorney-in-fact, your son would be able to deposit checks into your account, pay your bills, and generally handle your financial affairs while you’re away.

The Key Differences Between Having a Power of Attorney and a Durable Power of Attorney
An attorney in fact is someone who is appointed by another person (the principal) to act on their behalf.
A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that gives someone else the authority to act on your behalf.
An attorney in fact does not need to be a lawyer, but a POA must be signed by a lawyer.
An attorney in fact can be appointed to handle financial matters, while a POA can be used for other things like healthcare decisions.

Finding the Right Practitioner if You Need an Agent or an Attorney in Fact
If you need help managing your affairs but don’t want to go through the process of creating a formal power of attorney document, you may be able to appoint an attorney in fact. An attorney in fact is someone who has been given the authority to act on your behalf, but they are not necessarily a licensed attorney. The main difference between an attorney in fact and a power of attorney is that an attorney in fact does not need to be a licensed lawyer.

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