A Power of Attorney is a legal document you use to allow another person to act for you. You create a legal relationship in which you are the principal and the person you appoint is the agent. A Power of Attorney specifies the powers you give to your agent. The powers can be limited or broad.
The Power of Attorney is effective as soon as you sign it before two witnesses and have it notarized. You may give the Power of Attorney to your agent(s) and tell the person(s) not to use it unless you are unconscious or unable to act for yourself. However, the agent could use the Power of Attorney as soon as he or she receives it.
Some people may choose to use a “springing” Power of Attorney which does not take effect until a specific triggering event happens, such your incapacity. There are several problems with springing Powers of Attorney. First, the agent needs an affidavit showing the triggering event has occurred before the agent can use the Power of Attorney. Then, even though the law says banks and other institutions that accept the document with the affidavit are not liable, banks have been reluctant to recognize the agent’s power under a springing Power of Attorney. Finally, it isn't clear whether such a document would be accepted in other states.