Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that you (as the “principal”) create. It gives another person (your agent, or “attorney-in-fact”) the legal authority to act on your behalf. You can give your agent broad, ongoing powers, such as handling all of your finances, or limit him/her to specific actions and dates, for example selling your car while you are away. Your agent may not represent you in court, nor may he or she write, change, or revoke your will.

Common types of Power of Attorney include:

  1. General Financial Power of Attorney: permits the agent to transact business other than health care for the principal.
  2. Durable Financial Power of Attorney: remains active even if the principal becomes incapacitated. Clear and specific wording to that affect is what establishes a durable power of attorney. Most commercially published forms these days are durable.
  3. Health Care Power of Attorney: referred to as a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. In California this is combined with a living will to create an Advance Health Care Directive, governed by Probate Code 4600 through 4806. (See also the library’s “Living Wills” resource guide.)
  4. Limited (or Special) Power of Attorney: used for child care, for example, allowing the agent to make decisions in place of the parents about school or health care for the children. Incarcerated persons may need one or more PoAs for this and other specific tasks of limited duration.

How long does the Power of Attorney last? You can specify an expiration date in the document. A general power of attorney ends if you become incapacitated or revise the document to make it durable. Otherwise, a Power of Attorney ends either when you die