A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that designates an agent (attorney-in-fact), most often a loved one, to act on another’s behalf in private affairs, business, or legal matters. The person authorizing the other to act is the principal. POAs expire at death, or sooner in some cases, and can always be revoked upon the request of the principal.
Standing power of attorney
A durable POA means it will last during incapacity. A standing POA, one type of a durable POA, puts a person in control of the principal’s legal and financial decisions should the principal become incapacitated or unable to make their own decisions. These powers are immediately effective, even if they will not be used until needed. Often spouses give each other such powers.
Springing power of attorney
The other type of a durable POA is a springing POA. A springing power does not become effective until the principal is incapacitated, thus it “springs” into action. The main reason to make a durable POA springing is to make sure that the agent doesn’t act prematurely, before the grantor’s incapacity. The springing POA often requires the agent to get documentation proving the principal’s incapacity before a bank or other such institution will honor it, and therefore has more red tape associated with it.
Limited power of attorney
The agent is given limited authority to carry out very specific tasks. For example, the POA can state that the agent is authorized to open a specific type of bank account for the principal at a certain bank. These are often used in real estate closings when the buyer or seller can’t be at the closing themselves.
Health care proxy
In Massachusetts, a medical POA is known as a health care proxy. It gives another person the legal authority to make medical decisions on the patient’s behalf should the patient be unable to do so.