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Elder LawEstate PlanningThe Law in Real Terms

Knowledge is Power: Understanding the Different Powers of Attorney

By April 25, 2019August 2nd, 2021No Comments


A power of attorney is a legal document through which you, as the principal, grant someone authority to make decisions and take actions on your behalf. The person you name is called your agent or “attorney-in-fact.” Agents can be given various powers, but some of the most common include paying bills, managing real estate, conducting business transactions, and making medical decisions. There are also various types of power of attorney, which can be used for different purposes.

Limited power of attorney

A limited power of attorney gives your agent the power to act on your behalf for a very limited purpose. For example, it could permit your agent to sign a contract for you on a day when you are unavailable. This type of power of attorney is narrow in scope and typically ends once the specific act is completed.

General power of attorney

A general power of attorney is comprehensive and gives your agent all the powers and rights that you have yourself. You may use a general power of attorney if you are not incapacitated, but still need an agent to help you with financial matters. An important aspect of a general power of attorney is that it ends at the time of your death or incapacitation unless you rescind it before such time.

Durable power of attorney

A durable power of attorney can be general or limited in scope, and remains in effect after you become incapacitated. If you do not designate a durable power of attorney, no one can represent you in the event that you become incapacitated unless a court appoints a guardian or conservator. A durable power of attorney will remain in effect until your death unless you rescind it prior to becoming incapacitated.

Springing power of attorney

Similar to a durable power of attorney, a springing power of attorney allows your agent to act for you if you become incapacitated, but will not become effective until such time. Therefore, for a springing power of attorney, it is important to define the term “incapacity” clearly, so it is clear when your agent should step in and act on your behalf.

Because these documents play such an important role in your financial and medical needs, it is important you seek guidance from an experienced professional to ensure that your power of attorney document has the intended purpose and is properly prepared. Then, once you have carefully selected your agent, you should discuss the terms with that person so they are aware of their rights and obligations as power of attorney.

Cindy Menta is an Associate Attorney at Gertsburg Licata. Her practice is focused primarily on real estate transactions and commercial litigation. She can be reached at [email protected]

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