Understanding the Different Types of Powers of Attorney

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a written instrument that allows you (the "principal") to authorize your agent (also known as your "attorney-in-fact") to conduct certain business on your behalf. It is one of the strongest legal documents that you can give to another person during your lifetime. There are two types of POA: "general" and "special" (or limited). A general POA gives your agent very broad powers to act on your behalf; and a special POA limits your agent's authority to act only on certain matters. Every act performed by your agent within the authority of the POA is legally binding upon you. Since a POA is such a powerful document, give it only to a trustworthy person, and only when necessary. The Criss & Rousseau Law Firm can advise you and prePOA-pic2-232x300.jpgpare the appropriate type of POA needed for your situation.


A General POA gives your agent the authority to do most things you could do yourself, such as write checks and pay bills, borrow money, and sign contracts in your name. General POA'S may not be accepted for the performance of certain specific acts, such as selling or purchasing real estate. Normally a POA is void if the principal becomes physically or mentally incapacitated. However, there is "durability" language, which may be added to the POA that will ensure that it remains valid during any period of incapacity. Therefore, a Durable General POA can be a simple and effective planning tool in the event of later incapacity due to dementia or other illnesses when the principal is unable to act on their own.

A special, or limited, POA authorizes your agent to do only a specified act, such as sell your car or a specific piece of real estate or home. The special or limited power of attorney, as its name implies, restricts the other individual's action to a particular purpose that you have chosen. This is much safer than giving a general power of attorney, which grants another individual almost complete legal power over your personal and financial affairs. In addition, the special power of attorney is more likely to be accepted by those with whom the individual you have designated will be trying to do business. Because it is drawn for a specific purpose, it is often considered a more reliable measure of your actual intent.


This is a common type of special power of attorney. The phrase "in loco parentis" means "in the place of the parent." This type of special POA grants parental authority to another (such as temporary caregivers or a babysitter) to perform a range of functions which can include picking up a child from school, buying food and clothing, and consenting to medical treatment of the child in the event of illness or injury. If you have children, you will almost surely want a special power of attorney to provide for their non-emergency medical care when you and your spouse are away. Without this type of special POA a day care center, school, store, hospital or clinic, fearing legal repercussions, may refuse to follow the directives of the caregiver, babysitter, or other agent, and require the specific authorization of the actual parent. This grant of authority will assist the agent in the daily business of looking after the child, and can avoid unnecessary delays in emergencies.

Spring Power of Attorney:

A Springing Power of Attorney allows an attorney-in-fact or agent to act on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated. However, this type of POA does not become effective until the person actually is incapacitated. It is important within this document to define the standard for determining incapacity and triggering the power of attorney.


-A POA becomes void upon the death of the principal.
-A POA normally is void if the principal becomes physically or mentally incapacitated. However, appropriate "durability" language may be added to the POA that will ensure that it remains valid during any period of incapacity.
-Third parties may refuse to accept a POA.
-Many financial institutions and other businesses have their own POA'S which they prefer to be used to conduct business

If you need assistance with a Power of Attorney, call the Criss & Rousseau Law Firm to schedule an appointment.

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