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When you first hear the term “power of attorney,” it may sound like an all-too-official concept, or something you’ll never need to use. At least, that’s how it seemed to me.

However, when you look at types of powers of attorney, and the ways that it can and may be used, you may find that there are instances in which you will need a power of attorney, or that you have to act as a power of attorney for someone else.

For instance, my mom had a minor surgery on her shoulder a few years ago. My dad was unable to take off work to take her to the surgery. So, before we left, my mom had me sign documents making me a temporary healthcare power of attorney.

Types of Power of Attorney

There are different types of powers of attorney for different purposes.

Some of the main types include: general, enduring, limited, healthcare, durable and springing, all of which will be explained here.

However, there are other types of powers of attorney for very specific purposes, including: financial responsibility, care and custody of children and sale of vehicles. Since these are more specific, we won’t cover them in depth in this article.

General Power of Attorney

A general power of attorney is typically used to allow your agent to handle your affairs during a period of time when you are unable to do so, such as when you are traveling or when you are physically or mentally unable to handle your affairs. A general power of attorney is often part of an estate plan as well.

Powers usually include the ability to:

  • Buy and sell property
  • Buy, manage or sell real estate
  • Handle banking transactions
  • Enter safety deposit boxes
  • File tax returns
  • Tend to government benefits
  • Enter into contracts
  • Purchase life insurance
  • Settle claims
  • Exercise stock rights

The following are optional powers that can be granted to your agent:

Limited Power of Attorney

A limited or “special” power of attorney authorizes your agent to act on your behalf only in specific situations.

Common special powers of attorney include the ability to:

  • Make financial decisions
  • Manage business interests
  • Handle banking transactions
  • Make estate planning decisions, including gifts
  • Enter safety deposit boxes
  • Handle government issues and U.S. securities transactions
  • Collect debts
  • Borrow money
  • Sell, manage or mortgage real estate
  • Sell personal property

Health Care Power of Attorney

A health care power of attorney allows your agent to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unconscious, mentally incompetent or in any way unable to do so.

For example, if a decision needed to be made about my mom’s health care while she was unconscious in surgery, I would have had to make that decision as her health care power of attorney.

Having this document doesn’t forfeit your right to give medical direction to your doctors when you’re able to do it yourself. It only becomes effective when you don’t have that capacity.

Perhaps you are wondering how mental competence is determined.

In general, a doctor will consider whether you have an understanding of what is covered by the power of attorney, and whether you can make and communicate rational choices.

In your document, you can name a doctor whom you wish to make that determination or you can require that two licensed physicians agree on your mental capacity. Most organizations won’t allow your agent to act on your behalf without a doctor’s confirmation.

Many people choose to have both a living will and a healthcare power of attorney. You may already have a living will, but note that this is different. A living will lets a doctor know the types of medications you would want, but it does not authorize anyone to make decisions for you (such as keeping or taking you off life support). Therefore, it makes sense to also have a medical power of attorney document.

Remember to always keep the original document of your power of attorney for health care. Give a copy of the form to your agent, and send copies to your doctor and your health insurance company to be part of your medical records.

Enduring or Durable Power of Attorney

An enduring power of attorney, which is also called a durable power of attorney in the United States, allows your power of attorney to remain in effect even if you are mentally incompetent.

Without the enduring or durable language, your power of attorney agent can only exercise a power that you are able to do too. For example, if you’re in a coma, and can’t sign a contract, your power of attorney can’t sign for you either.

All of the types of powers of attorney can be made durable. However, a durable one, whether it’s general, limited or for health care, may allow your agent to carry out the powers you granted, whether you have a disability or not.

As a result, it is possible for your agent to do things on your behalf behind your back, so it’s important to pick someone trustworthy! As an added precaution, you could specify that the power of attorney would not go into effect unless a doctor declares that you are mentally incompetent.

Springing Power of Attorney

An alternative to creating a durable power of attorney is a springing power of attorney. Since some people are not comfortable granting someone else power while they are healthy, the power in this document only takes effect upon a specified event, condition or date.

However, it’s important to note that there are potential problems with this document as well.

Since there has to be a formal determination of incapacity before the power of attorney can be accepted, there may be disagreement about the degree of disability. This can cause a delay in your agent’s ability to act on your behalf.

Springing power of attorney is not accepted in all states and may actually end up playing out in court, which can be rather expensive.

As you can see, the various types of powers of attorney have a specific function and purpose depending on your needs.  Consult a lawyer to determine the best type of power of attorney for you.  Think about the person or organization you would like to designate as your agent or attorney-in-fact, and have a backup plan if that person or organization is incapable or refuses to accept their role. If you have questions about using a power of attorney to buy or sell a house, contact a Home Loan Expert today to get your questions answered!

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This Post Has 47 Comments

  1. Buying a car with me and husband as coapplicants for loan. I have poa for my husband who’s health is bad. Can I sign for him the car purchase contract

    1. Hi Anne:

      It depends on the way the power of attorney is set up. If you have a general power of attorney or even a limited one that gives access to make financial decisions or enter into contracts or the ability to buy and sell property, your power of attorney should work. Hope this helps!

    1. Hi Opal:

      Limited power of attorney might work for you. I actually have some experience with this because I have cerebral palsy that affects all my limbs. What I did was take a picture of one good signature and send it into a stamp making company. Now when something needs to be signed, I use the stamp. Depending on the law in your area, even making an X might work.

  2. Hi, I’m planning on travel abroad on a project and not sure when I’ll be back to my family, also my access could be limited sometimes. What would be the best type of POA I can grant my wife so she can have all flexibility to take care of herself, our children, financials, non-financials and can legally make decisions without delay. I fully trust her. Is durable POA appropriate one?

    Best,
    MA

    1. Hi MA:

      Since you fully trust her and you’re related, a durable power of attorney may be the best option because you don’t know when you’ll be coming back. That might be the best way. Hope this helps!

  3. Do I need to get a poa for a custody battle with my ex? My ex is a manipulative liar and he uses/lies to everybody. He lied to the kpc and to the courts. He even let his son sunburn cause he wasn’t watching his son. He used tanning oil on my 1 1/2 year old. He’s trying to get residential custody of him. I don’t have the money to hire an attorney. I’m living pay check to pay check for me and my 2 young kids. I’m trying to make ends meet and nothing works. I need help.

    1. Hi Jennifer:

      Power of attorney gives you the right to represent someone else in their affairs. You don’t need that for this because you’re just looking to represent yourself. You don’t need to be an attorney to represent yourself in court. I hope this helps. I wish you luck!

  4. hi i am getting a apartment and i need a cosigner because of my credit my cosigner will not be present to sign the lease he wants me to sign what power of attorney form would we need to print out and sign for indiana

    1. Hi Maggie:

      In this case, because it’s valid for a limited time, it sounds like you would just need a limited power of attorney. Have a good one!

  5. my wife has her name on the house only we are married and together but she is at work all day and are loan was just bought out by another bank and they will not talk to me at all because i am not listed on the loan they said i would need a POA to speak to them i ve never encountered this before its usually a written authorization from my wife and verbal and then i could speak with them so what POA would i need for consent to talk with them much thanks in advance
    John

    1. I can tell you it’s not uncommon to need a power of attorney, but it would depend on the policies of the mortgage servicer. That’s the best I can tell you.

  6. Is an original POA document required to close a refinance, or will a copy suffice? My father was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and his sister is his POA. I need to get my mother’s house refinanced, but his sister refuses to bring the original document to closing, as requested by the loan officer/title company, so the loan has been denied. I cannot seem to find solid evidence that claims it one way or the other for Texas.

    1. The problem I’m going to have answering that question is that different lenders have different policies. I would advise you that you’re going to need whatever the individual lender asks for. If your sister is worried about losing the original document, they won’t take it. They just make a copy. They need the original to make sure nothing has been forged and everything is authentic. I’m sorry to hear about your father. Alzheimer’s is rough. I wish you luck.

      Thanks,
      Kevin

  7. I wondering about using a limited durable poa for the purpose of collecting the checks/payments from specific insurance carriers who send the payments for reimbursing medical care rendered from our facilities directly to the patients or their family member. Since the patients are in a substance use /abuse recovery addiction program and in many cases their parents have issues with misusing drugs as well or have a bad relationship with their drug addicted child, our facility at time has lost huge amounts of money by the patient or family member blowing the money and not paying for the services rendered. Thoughts?

    1. Hi Catherine:

      I really have no idea how that area of the law works. I would recommend talking to an attorney because you might be able to get some sort of custodianship of finances in that situation.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  8. ok so my fiancé is in an ohio prison right now and he wants to file for a divorce while he is in there from his ohio wife…he believes if he gives me power of attorney then I would be able to file for him to start the prossess ..if this is true which power of attorney would I need to get a file on his behave

    1. Hi Samantha:

      I don’t know what the law is around this and it’s a bit complex. I recommend talking to an attorney before making any moves.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  9. I’m about to have surgery on my hands and while I’m unable to sign and fill out my documents such as: medical papers when I go doctors, my bank of depositing and sign on my personal checks for bill’s, my kids school and medical papers for my kids and important form documents to my husband and mother. How do I make a power of attorney letter of examples?
    Thank you!

    1. That’s a good question. I would talk to someone that knows the law in your jurisdiction, but I have cerebral palsy myself and they’ve always told me an x was sufficient. That might be something to look into. If not, there may be a way to do an electronic signature.

  10. Useful information shared about an attorney help. I am very happy to read this article. Thanks for giving us nice info. Fantastic walk through. I appreciate this post.

  11. I think 2 of my siblings are abusing their POA. My mom has Lewy Body Dementia. She did not have anyone set up as her POA,but in 2\2017 she walked away from home when she was upset with my dad. I worry that the LOW was set up when my mom was not understanding what she was signing. Now she is in a home where much of the staff are friends with siblings. Siblings will not show the poa. When they thought I wanted to see medical records the lost it. My mom has told them I was getting lawyers, which is what she said to “egg” them on. When I went to see her I was verbally attack ed by them and threats by them of never seeing my mom again were made. What can I do?

    1. Hi Joan:

      A judgment has to be made regarding whether your mother is competent at the time she signs it. However, since it’s already signed, I don’t really know how that works now. It’s my advice that you talk to an attorney if you can’t find a way to reconcile these differences.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  12. I currently have a Limited Power of Attorney with Durable Provision. My mom wrote in the authority is medical, financial and physical. I am finding there are certain organizations that won’t accept this and want their own, i.e. Medicare, USAA.

    Do I need a different type of Power of Attorney? My mom is 96 next month, in an assistant living environment with dementia. Need to make changes to legal documents before her mind declines anymore. Would appreciate advice. The POA is dated in 2005.

    1. Hi Antoinette:

      I don’t think the issue is that you need a different type of power of attorney. My grandma has moderate dementia at this point and I’ve done some research myself. From what I’ve read, some organizations want their own special form as opposed to your power of attorney documentation. I guess my advice would be to have her sign whatever paperwork she needs to before she’s no longer competent to do so. That said, it sounds like the power of attorney you have probably covers everything you need to worry about at this point. Hope this helps!

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  13. Hello, I have a question I am confused about. What kind of power of attorney document would I need for my mother to go to court for me to get more time with an eviction process?Also to care for my kids while I’m away?

    1. Hi Natasha:

      You can draw up general power of attorney that’s valid for a specific period of time so she can represent you and care for your children.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

    1. Hi Kathy:

      I sympathize. It may depend on the type of power of attorney you have and your current medical condition. I would talk to an attorney if you can.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  14. My mom has been diagnosed with Melanoma which has traveled to her brain. A month ago she had surgery on her hernia (hernia is from a car accident in ’93) and has been in and out of the hospital but for long periods of time. My mom tends to fabricate the truth and over exaggerates with everything so I really don’t know what is going on with her help. My aunt keeps telling me to get a power of attorney and I don’t know which one to get. Can you please help me choose the right one?

    1. Hi Dana:

      I’m very sorry to hear about your mom. That sounds like a difficult situation.

      It depends on your goals. I’m also going to start this by saying I’m not an attorney. This is based on information in the post itself, but hopefully, I can help you.

      If you’re concerned about care decisions, a health care power of attorney may be good enough. If you’re worried about other decisions she makes, you may have to get general power of attorney. However, it’s important that whichever one you choose, language is included that makes it durable given her health state. Otherwise, if she’s not in a state to make decisions, you may not be able to sign contracts either.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  15. What type of PofA would apply if my mother wants me to act on her behalf on all matters (unlimited) and what is the best type to have when going through the process of my mother transitioning into an Assisted Living/Nursing Home?

    1. Hi Shannon:

      If your mother wants you to act on her behalf on all matters now and in the future, it would probably be best to take a look at durable general power of attorney. I hope this helps!

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  16. Question: my husband is going overseas and wants to have me sign a mortgage contract for a home being built. He will out of the country on the date with the mortgage company and wants me to sign for him. What kind of POA do we need?

    1. Based on what you’re telling me, it sounds like a general power of attorney would work for this purpose. You’ll have to tell the mortgage company what’s going on as well.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  17. Hi,
    I have auto loan on my car. I have to go out of country for about 2 months. In my absence, if I need to sell the car to private party, is there an option that I can transfer the power of attorney to a friend of my so that he can collect the title from dmv on my behalf(KS holds titles electronically for vehicles on loans)?
    What is this power of attorney called and where do I find someone who can create the POA for me and my friend?

    Regards

    1. Hey Taru:

      It sounds like you’re looking for a general power of attorney. There are online services that might even let you do self-service filling out the forms, or you can find a local attorney that deals with issues of personal property.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

    1. Hi Sandra:

      If it’s only on a limited basis, you would need general power of attorney. If the power of attorney is more permanent, it would be durable power of attorney.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  18. I need to take over control of my parents finances because my brother is tobbing them blind. How do i go about taking ovet all of their finances?

    1. Hi Catherine:

      You would have to get them to sign power of attorney over to you or prove they are incapable of handling this anymore and initiate a legal process. I would talk to an attorney.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  19. Are there separate Power Of Attorney documents? We have one for Moms Medical and we want to be able to handle her financial matters as well. Thank you, Nancy

    1. Hi Nancy:

      There are generally separate documents for medical and financial power of attorney, but I would discuss that with a financial planner in your area.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  20. Is there a Power of attorney document that allows a someone to fully care for another, such as personal care… example:check by phone periodically, do shopping. in fact general care.?

    1. Hi Lilian! We’d recommend you seek legal counsel to see which power of attorney would work best for you.

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