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The Heritage Law Center, LLC Blog

Types of Powers of Attorney

POSTED ON: February 25, 2019

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. For the purpose of this article, we’ll refer to you as the principal.

General Power of Attorney
A general power of attorney provides broad powers to your agent. This person is your legal representative who can pay your bills, make financial transactions, and sign legal documents on your behalf. This type of power of attorney is used while you’re competent but just need some help with financial matters. This power ends when you die, become incapacitated, or if you revoke this power.

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 you at a certain bank. These are often used in real estate closings when the buyer or seller can’t be at the closing themselves.

Durable Power of Attorney
This type of POA allows the agent to continue acting on your behalf if you become incapacitated or mentally incompetent. The agent’s powers can be limited or general. The durable power of attorney remains in effect until revocation or your death.

Springing power of attorney
This is a type of durable 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 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.

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.