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What is a Rhode Island Power of Attorney?

A Rhode Island power of attorney is a legal form that provides the authorization for a person, referred to as the agent or attorney-in-fact, to make financial decisions, healthcare decisions, real estate decisions, or estate decisions on behalf of the person granting this authority. A Rhode Island POA is often used in the estate planning process, but there are also many times when it is a useful tool.

Quick Reference:

The person granting permission is referred to as the principal, donor, or grantor.

The person receiving authorization is known as the agent or the attorney-in-fact.

RI POA Laws:

A Rhode Island power of attorney is a legal form that must comply with the Rhode Island Short Form Power of Attorney Act, Chapter 18-16. These laws specifically outline the parameters of a legally enforceable power of attorney document. They ensure that the form, as well as its duties, are protected under the law. Here are some of the state’s power of attorney requirements:

  • The principal must be at least 18 years old.
  • The principal must be of sound mind and understand what they are signing.
  • The principal must be a resident of the State of Rhode Island.
  • Two adult witnesses must sign the document.
  • The POA must follow the statutory form.
  • The principal must sign the POA in the presence of a notary public.

The principal has the right to explain within the body of the power of attorney which powers the agent can and cannot use on their behalf. The principal has the legal right to revoke (terminate) the power of attorney, even if it is durable, as long as they are competent. The power of attorney also terminates when:

  • The principal dies.
  • The principal becomes incapacitated and the POA isn’t durable.
  • The purpose of the POA is fulfilled.
  • The agent dies, becomes incapacitated, or resigns and there is no co-agent or successor agent named.

Why Would You Use a Rhode Island Power of Attorney Form?

There are many reasons why someone would use a Rhode Island power of attorney to give another person the ability to make decisions related to their tangible personal property, financial institution transactions, tax matters, or their well-being. Some of those reasons include:

  • Their age, mental health, or illness. They may prefer to have their affairs handled in specific ways. It is generally advised that everyone, including those diagnosed with a terminal illness and those in perfect health, establish the proper powers of attorney to have their matters handled and their wishes fulfilled.
  • Someone with a mental illness may need a different power of attorney than someone with a terminal illness.
  • Someone with dependent children may need a different power of attorney than someone without dependent children.

Each person’s need for a power of attorney can be different. There are many different powers of attorney. Before deciding which to use, seek legal advice to determine which is best to suit your needs. You can also ask how to revoke the power of attorney in case it becomes necessary for you to do so. Here are the most common Rhode Island powers of attorney.

General Power of Attorney

A general power of attorney grants decision making power to the agent on behalf of the principal.

  • However, if the principal dies or becomes incapacitated, the POA terminates. The principal can also revoke the document.

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney is an "extended version" of a general power of attorney because it goes beyond the parameters of a general power of attorney.

Limited Power of Attorney

A limited power of attorney grants limited power to whatever the principal specifies.

  • In many cases, an agent will have the power to handle finances, or make medical decisions, but will not have the authority to do other things such as sell property (depending on what the principal decides). Just like a general power of attorney, the authority terminates if the principal becomes incapacitated or dies.The POA terminates when the purpose is fulfilled.

Health Care Power of Attorney

A health care power of attorney allows the agent to make medical decisions on behalf of the principal.

  • This type of POA can be durable or nondurable. When nondurable, decisions can no longer be made if the principal is declared incompetent or incapacitated. When a health care power of attorney is durable, the agent continues to make medical decisions on behalf of the principal in the event of incapacitation or incompetence, but they may not make end-of-life decisions. Rather, the principal, while of sound mind, should complete an advance directive and name a health care agent and record their desires. The Rhode Island Department of Health provides free information about how to create an advance directive.

Guardian of Minor Power of Attorney

A guardian of minor power of attorney allows a parent or guardian to grant decision-making rights over their child to a temporary guardian in the instance that the parent or guardian may not be present during a medical emergency.

  • This form is generally used if the parent or guardian must leave the country for a period of time. It is also used if the minor is traveling or living temporarily with an adult who is not their parent or guardian.

Real Estate Power of Attorney

A real estate power of attorney grants power to the agent, allowing them to buy, sell, and manage real estate on the principal's behalf on accordance with §18-16-3.

Tax Power of Attorney

A tax power of attorney, officially known as Form RI-2848 allows the agent who is usually a qualified individual such as an accountant, to prepare and submit tax information to the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations on behalf of the principal.

Vehicle Power of Attorney

A vehicle power of attorney allows the agent to buy, sell, and handle the necessary paperwork with the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles on the principal's behalf.

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