Without a valid Durable Power of Attorney, the answer really depends on what documents need to be signed.
A Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document signed by the “Principal,” granting the authority to another individual to make decisions on the Principal’s behalf. This document is only in effect during the lifetime of the Principal.
nj.com’s recent article on this topic asks “Who can sign for an incapacitated person if there’s no power of attorney?” The article noted that to have the authority to conduct financial transactions concerning the assets solely owned by the incapacitated person who failed to execute a power of attorney, a Guardian will have to be appointed by the court.
A Guardianship is a legal relationship established by the court in which an individual is given legal authority over another when that person is unable to make safe and sound decisions regarding his or her person or property.
If it’s not an emergency, a guardian also will need to be appointed to make medical decisions for an incapacitated person who hasn’t signed a health care proxy. This is a legal document that gives an agent the authority to make health care decisions for an incapacitated person. It will take effect if the person is incapacitated or unable to communicate. The agent will make decisions that reflect the wishes of the incapacitated individual.
Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney if you believe you need a Durable Power of Attorney prepared before you become incapacitated.
Reference: nj.com (July 22, 2019) “Who can sign for an incapacitated person if there’s no power of attorney?”