General vs. Special Power of Attorney (POA Part IV)

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a written authorization to act on another’s behalf in legal matters. The person creating a Power of Attorney is known as the “principal” and the person authorized to act is called the “agent.” A Power of Attorney can be general, giving the agent the authority to conduct any type of business on behalf of the principal, or specific, and limited to the transactions expressly outlined in the document.

General Power of Attorney

A General Power of Attorney gives your agent the authority to handle all your affairs during a period of time when you are unable to do so, such as when you are traveling out of the country or when your physical and/or mental health are compromised. A General POA can be included as part of your estate plan to ensure that your financial affairs will be tended to in the event that you are unable to do so.

A General Power of Attorney is typically very broad, giving the agent extensive powers and responsibilities. Powers typically include (but are not limited to):

  • Handling banking and other transactions
  • Filing tax returns
  • Buying, selling, or managing real estate and other property
  • Entering contracts
  • Settling claims

You also have the option to grant your agent additional powers, such as making transfers to living trusts, maintaining and operating business interests, and disclaiming interests, among others.

Special, Specific or Limited Power of Attorney

A Special, Specific or Limited Power of Attorney gives your agent the authority to conduct a specific act or acts on your behalf. Because this type of Power of Attorney is limited to the act or acts designated in the document, it is especially important to be very clear about the powers you wish to appoint to your agent.

You may use a Special Power of Attorney to appoint an agent to act on your behalf in the event that you become ill or disabled, are embarking on extended travel, or are otherwise unable to handle a specific type of task. You may designate any of the powers listed above (under General POA) to your agent, or any other powers you deem necessary.

The following resources are also available to answer additional questions about Power of Attorney:

More information is available on the Power of Attorney page, including free general and special power of attorney forms.