Powers of attorney grant power to your Agent to act on your behalf. They a vital tool to make sure you get to pick who manages your money, not a judge. Skip to Content

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Things a Power of Attorney Cannot Do

Posted on Thu Nov 30, 2023, on Power of Attorney

From Our “Ask a Question” Mailbag: “My mother gave me her power of attorney. My understanding is that I can now do anything for her. Is that correct? Are there things that a power of attorney cannot do?”

Things a Power of Attorney Cannot Do

Power of Attorney Lawyer Daniella Horn

What is a Power of Attorney?

First, what is a Power of Attorney? A POA is a document that gives one or more persons the right to act as your Agent. An Agent is someone to whom you have given legal authorization to make decisions about another person’s finances, real property, or medical care. Some people call the person the “Power of Attorney” when, in fact, the POA is the document itself. The person is the “Agent” or sometimes the “Attorney-in-Fact.”

A Power of Attorney is an essential part of every estate plan. Should you someday be incapacitated, the document allows you to select who acts on your behalf. Without a Power of Attorney, your estate planning lawyer must petition the court to appoint a guardian. A valid POA avoids this expensive, time-consuming, and sometimes contentious process.

What Can a POA Do?

A Power of Attorney can grant broad or narrow powers. Some examples of Powers typically given in a Power of Attorney include:

  • Granting your Agent the ability to manage your bank accounts and write checks.
  • Giving your Agent the authority to manage your mortgage credit cards and collect debts.
  • Grant Agents the ability to sell real estate.
  • Give your Agent the authority to apply for your government benefits.

What Are the Types of Powers?

Different POAs address different situations. Which one you create will depend on your needs. Here is a list of the most common Powers.

  • Durable General Power of Attorney: The broadest POA, this document gives your Agent the authority to do almost anything you could do until you either revoke the grant or die.
  • Limited Power of Attorney: More restrictive than a blanket General Power, use a Limited POA to give your Agent a specific task or limit the time the authority exists.
    • For example, you may give your brother a limited POA to sell your car to your friend. Or, you may provide your attorney the power to sell your house on a given day if you cannot attend the closing.
  • Springing Power of Attorney: This refers to a document granting authority to your Agent only when triggered.  
    • For example, you give your son the ability to manage your finances only if a doctor certifies that you have become incapacitated.
  • Medical Power of Attorney: Often called a medical directive, this is a grant to your Agent to make medical decisions for you when you cannot.

What Can a Power of Attorney Not Do?

While POA is a broad and valuable tool, it cannot do everything.  

  • A POA cannot grant your Agent the power to transfer power to another Agent.
  • A POA cannot give your Agent the ability to take financial or other legal actions for you after your death.
  • Your POA cannot give the Agent the power to distribute your assets as an inheritance after your death.

In Conclusion:

Want to learn more? For more information, follow this link to learn more about Durable General Powers of Attorney.

I hope you found this short article responding to the question, Are there things that an Agent cannot do? I have also included some links for more detailed information. If you want to update your Will, POA, or Living Will, contact us and let our Estate Planning lawyers help. Feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. 

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