What is a Power of Attorney?


A Power of Attorney is a legal instrument that is used to delegate legal authority to another. The person who signs a Power of Attorney is called the Principal. The Power of Attorney gives legal authority to another person (called an Agent or Attorney-in-Fact) to make property, financial and other legal decisions for the Principal. The word “attorney” here means anyone authorized to act on another’s behalf. It’s not restricted to lawyers.

A Principal can give an Agent broad legal authority, or very limited authority. The Power of Attorney is frequently used to help in the event of a Principal's illness or disability, or in legal transactions where the Principal cannot be present to sign necessary legal documents.

There are "Nondurable," "Durable," and "Springing" Power of Attorney.

A "Nondurable" Power of Attorney takes effect immediately. It remains in effect until the Principal revokes it, or until the Principal becomes mentally incompetent or dies. A "Nondurable" Power of Attorney is often used for a specific transaction, like the closing on the sale of residence, or the handling of the Principal's financial affairs while the Principal is traveling outside of the country.

A "Durable" Power of Attorney enables the Agent to act for the Principal even after the Principal is not mentally competent or physically able to make decisions. The "Durable" Power of Attorney may be used immediately, and is effective until it is revoked by the Principal, or until the Principal's death. If you don't specify that you want your power of attorney to be durable, it will automatically end if you later become incapacitated.

A "Springing" Power of Attorney becomes effective at a future time designated in advance by the Power of Attorney, such as the illness or disability of the Principal. You can specify that the durable power of attorney does not go into effect unless a doctor certifies that you have become incapacitated. A "Springing" Power of Attorney remains in effect until the Principal's death, or until revoked by a court.

© Alex J. Llorente  2012