What is a Power of Attorney? (POA Part I)

Many of the questions we receive at DoYourOwnWill.com are related to Power of Attorney. POA is an important tool, but can be difficult to understand. Thus, this is the first in a series of posts explaining the most common types of and uses for POA. The information below is intended as an overview of the topic, with subsequent posts delving into the details of each subtopic.

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.”

Child Care Power of Attorney

Child Care Power of Attorney is a temporary transfer of legal guardianship of minor children in your absence. It is a specific type of limited/special POA that endows an agent with the authority to make most decisions you would make as a parent.

How to Revoke Power of Attorney

You can revoke any type of Power of Attorney (including a durable POA) at any time, for any reason, as long as you are mentally competent. The revocation must be completed in writing, and typically includes your name; a statement affirming that you are of sound mind (mentally competent); a statement that you wish to revoke a previously designated Power of Attorney; the date of the original POA; and the name of the previously designated agent.

General vs. Special Power of Attorney

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 specifically outlined in the document.

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney is a specific type of agreement that remains in effect even in the event that the principal becomes incapacitated. Under a durable POA, the agent retains authority to make decisions on behalf of the principal until the principal’s death.

Health Care Power of Attorney

A health care power of attorney (or health care proxy) is a specific type of durable power of attorney that empowers the agent to make health care decisions for the principal. In contrast, a living will (or advance healthcare directive) is a written statement of an individual’s wishes related to medical treatment that does not appoint another person to make decisions on their behalf. Depending on the state, a health care proxy and advance healthcare directive may be separate or combined documents.

Springing Power of Attorney

A springing power of attorney is a specific type of POA that takes effect only when and if the principal becomes incapacitated in some manner. Some individuals choose to enact a springing POA to allow a spouse or family member to manage their affairs in case an injury or illness prevents them from doing so.

In addition to the information provided in the POA Part II – VII blog posts, DoYourOwnWill.com has more information available on their Power of Attorney page, including free general and special power of attorney forms.