Everything To Know About The Types of Power of Attorney

Power of attorney gives authority for one person to act on behalf of another. Read more about the different types of powers of attorney and POA lawyers.

The term “power of attorney” (POA) refers to a document, which grants someone rights and authority to legally act on behalf of another person. Reasons for granting power of attorney vary but often pertain to caring for elderly relatives who are no longer capable of caring for their own affairs. When power of attorney is necessary, so too is a power of attorney lawyer to help navigate all legalities, terms, and conditions. Read ahead to learn what you need to know about the different types of powers of attorney and POA lawyers today.


Power of Attorney 101

Many people possess a conceptual understanding of the basics involved in a power of attorney (POA) scenario. An oft-overlooked element about POAs is how the POA itself is a legal document, which grants rights and authority for one person to legally act on behalf of another. A POA is assignable by you when you are unable to manage your own affairs. These affairs are commonly financially oriented, but also include medical, property, business and estate decisions.

When you grant POA to another person you are referred to as the principal. The person granted legal powers over your affairs is referred to as the attorney-in-fact or agent. The POA itself defines the terms, conditions and limitations of the powers granted to the agent. Most POAs do not negate principals’ rights to act but instead merely grant the agent his or her rights to act on the principal’s behalf. Some POAs do grant full powers, however, albeit commonly under only the severest of circumstances.

Powers of Attorney - Six Main Types

Six main types of powers of attorney exist. Each has its own sets of terms and limitations. Each might also have subtle or detailed variations based on specific circumstances. Ultimately, the types of power(s) granted in POAs are either general or limited, as overviewed directly below.

General POA

The agent is granted legal authority to act on behalf of the principal in most (or all) personal and business matters. Such matters might include opening or closing various financial accounts, the management of personal finances, selling of property and handling of estate-related affairs. Matters might also include purchasing and liquidating stock, access to safe deposit boxes, handling of lawsuits, business contracts and loans. If the principal becomes incapacitated or dies, all powers granted to the agent in a general POA are revoked, and the POA is terminated.

Limited (Special) POA

A special or limited POA is enacted for specific circumstances. Often this type of POA is used for a one-time situation or transaction, such as a real estate purchase, home sale or business contract. A limited POA is commonly used when a prior commitment was made by the principal but he or she falls ill or otherwise unable to honor the commitment without assistance. No additional rights or authority are granted to the agent outside those specifically listed in the limited POA.

Durable POA

A durable POA assigns the agent the rights and authority to act on behalf of the principal for financial, medical, or other assigned purposes. No expiration is enforced on the powers granted in this type of POA, even in the event of the principal’s’ incapacitation or death. Some durable POAs become active only after the incapacitation or death of the principal, whereas others are activated before such events. A durable POA is therefore the most comprehensive type of POA assignable.

Non-Durable POA

Non-durable POAs are like limited POAs. Full rights, authority and permissions are not granted to the agent outside the specific purposes stated. Any powers granted to the agent are also terminated in the event the principal is rendered incapacitated or dies. The primary difference between a limited POA and a non-durable POA is the non-durable POA often involves broader powers and terms.

Springing Durable and Non-Durable POA

Powers granted in a springing durable or non-durable POA take effect upon the occurrence of a specific event. Such events might include incapacitation or death. Activating events might also include travel abroad or various medical emergencies.

Medical POA

A medical POA grants powers to the agent specifically pursuant to medical decisions applicable to the principal. Terms might also require permission from a presiding physical to enact end-of-life decisions or to verify long-term permanent or imminent incapacitation or death. A medical POA is sometimes also referred to as a medical proxy or healthcare surrogate.

What Types of Decisions Do POA Agents Make?

POA agents make medical decisions related to long-term care, comfort care, life support and surgeries. POA agents make financial decisions regarding monetary gifts, loans, and inheritances. Decisions about buying and selling stocks, real estate and other investments are also made. Some POAs also have the power to recommend guardians for orphaned children or caretakers for elderly family members.

The Importance of Assigning a POA

Assigning a POA removes stress from family members or business partners, preventing them from scrambling to honor your unknown wishes without any directive. Your finances, possessions, businesses, and overall legacy are not left to random choices when you assign a POA. Assigning a POA also prevents the courts from randomly assigning one for you.

POA Lawyers - What Do They Do?

A POA lawyer helps draft your POA and protect your rights. He or she makes sure your POA is legal and enforceable by law. A POA lawyer might also help you:

  • Choose your agent
  • Draft the proper type of POA for your needs
  • Enforce the POA if contested or violated

Average Costs and Pro Bono POAs

Basic POAs might cost as low as $35 to have drafted online through companies such as Legal Zoom. The national median price for POA services is $375 per POA, however, with prices ranging from $50 through $500 and higher. Pro bono (free) POA lawyers are not widely available, as such services are primarily designated for people charged of a crime with the possibility of incarceration. Certain civil legal aid services are provided for households earning 125 percent or less then the government-designated poverty line, however.

Online Search and Directory Resources

Lawyers.com is a popular and reliable online search and directory resource for finding POA lawyers available near you. Attorneys.com is another such resource. A few more reliable online search and directory resources for locating POA lawyers in your area include: