Alexandra K. Fleszar, Capt, 374 AW Legal Office
“Could someone explain what POAs I need for my NEO folder?” We hear this question all the time in the 374th AW Legal Office. We want to make sure that all members of the Yokota community know the services that are available to them and understand the legalese. In Ask A JAG, we answer Yokota’s burning legal questions in a straightforward, bi-monthly newsletter. In today’s edition, we tackle what you can do with a Power of Attorney.
What is a POA?
Let’s start with the basics. A power of attorney, or POA, is a document that hands over your legal abilities to another person, who then becomes your “agent.” The POA allows the agent to take actions for you, even in your absence. You can think of this like a celebrity’s agent. For example, George Clooney can’t talk with every movie producer who tries to reach him; so he has an agent who closes movie deals on his behalf.
Whatever your agent does with your POA legally binds you to those acts. So if George’s agent signs him on to Sharknado 3, George is stuck battling a tornado of sharks even if he hates the script. In the real world, this has serious consequences if you give your POA to the wrong person.
With a POA, you might want to let someone access your bank accounts to pay your rent while you are TDY, but if you’re not careful about which person you choose and how you write a POA, that person could legally pocket all of your money instead.
That is why there are several different types of POAs for different situations: they protect you by minimizing the damage your agent can do by only allowing them to act in certain ways. General POAs give your agent the right to conduct any business you could do for yourself. Many on- and off-base agencies will not accept General POAs because they are so powerful and can be easily abused. A good option is the Special POA (SPOA) which allows your agent to act only for specific transactions, such as a single car sale. A durable POA allows your agent to act on your behalf even if you are incapacitated, generally during an emergency healthcare event.
When Do I Use a POA?
POAs are most useful in situations where you are separated from your loved ones, belongings, or the location in which you need to conduct business.
Personal Transactions. Most people become familiar with POAs when they are PCS-ing, because they need someone to sell their car or forward their mail. SPOAs are perfect for these business or personal transactions and can be used for whatever it is that you choose, from selling or buying a home to signing and filing other legal documents like your tax returns.
Noncombatant Evacuation Operations (NEO). Dependents and pets are great examples of how POAs are crucial during NEOs. In the event of an evacuation, both dual-military and single-parent families will require another person to take their child on a plane to the safe haven point and eventually home. To travel with your child, the designated person will need a SPOA to exercise guardianship during the trip. Likewise, if your child will be in the care of a grandparent, aunt or uncle, or family friend when they reach home, that person will need a SPOA to enroll the child in school, make medical decisions for them, and obtain access to their records. The SPOA in this case, called an In Loco Parentis, allows the caretaker to act in place of the parents.
Pet-care poses another situation in which families will want to have an SPOA in place. Let’s say you are on vacation or a short-term TDY and a neighbor is caring for your pet. If a NEO is ordered or Sparky gets sick and needs to see a vet, your neighbor would need an SPOA to take your pet on the plane or bring them to get medical care. Many people do not realize that most vets will not see a pet without an SPOA if the owner is not present.
There are other situations in which SPOAs could come in handy during a NEO. If one family member buys a car and registers it in their name and then returns home during a NEO, the remaining family member will need an SPOA to sell, register, or act with legal authority over the car. The same applies to individual bank accounts which multiple family members may need to access if they are separated. SPOAs allow family members to act with the same authority even though they are not in the same place and did not originally have the same legal access.
Medical Care. Being a military member can pose issues for contacting family back home in the event of an emergency. It can be helpful to designate a trusted friend or nearby family member to make emergency medical decisions for you in the event that you cannot. Your family back home may know your preferences about medical care if you were to be rendered unconscious in a car accident, but if the hospital is unable to reach your family, having a healthcare POA in place could save your life.
The beauty of POAs is that they can be tailored to fit your needs and are almost limitless in design. The key is to think about what you might need someone else to do in an emergency. Once you know what your needs are, or if you want help identifying situations in which you might need a POA, call or visit the Legal Office to discuss the issues and obtain the document that best fits your situation. POAs provided by the Legal Office are effective in all 50 states.
Where Can I Get a POA?
The Legal Assistance Office has weekly POA walk-in hours every Monday through Thursday, 0900 – 1500.
For faster service, you can provide the POA information ahead of your visit by following these steps:
- Visit the Legal Assistance Website at: https://aflegalassistance.law.af.mil/lass/lass.html.
- Click on the “Legal Worksheets” heading, then “Create Power of Attorney (POA) Worksheet.”
- Choose the type of POA you need, answer the associated questions, and submit the answers.
- Write down the ticket number you receive and bring it into the Legal Assistance Office.
To make an appointment at the Legal Office, call DSN 225-8069 or COMM 042-552-2511 ext. 5-8069.