Different Types of Power of Attorney (POA)

Although medical and financial are the most common powers of attorney (POAs), there are several subtypes between them, as well as many other kinds of POAs.

Helpful Highlights

  • Medical Powers of Attorney include a handful of documents that are called by different names depending on where you live in the U.S. and who provides the document.

  • The same is true for Financial Powers of Attorney.

  • Several other, more specific, types of Powers of Attorney exist that are less commonly used than Medical or Financial, though are just as important to know about.

  • Powers of Attorney also have different levels of durability and timing that are extremely important to understand.

Everything you need is all in one place

Helpful app simplifies family caregiving by combining your loved one’s insurance benefits and medical records into one user-friendly platform while enhancing your caregiving skills

Get started for free
Preview of Helpful app

Terminology

A POA is a document, not an individual, even though it is common to say, "I'm their POA."

The person accepting a POA is referred to as the "attorney-in-fact" or simply, "agent".

The person granting a POA (i.e., your loved one) is referred to as the "principal".

Durability

The durability of a POA is not assumed or implied (as nothing in law ever is!), it is specifically written into the document. A POA is either durable or non-durable.

  • Durable. The agent's authority to act on behalf of the principal continues if the principal becomes incapacitated*, but ceases at their death.

  • Non-durable. The agent's authority to act on behalf of the principal ceases if the principal becomes incapacitated, as well as ceases at their death.

*Incapacitated = mentally incompetent, unconscious, or otherwise unable to make decisions and communicate desires.

Timing

  • Immediate. A POA can be written to take effect immediately upon signing.

  • In the future. A POA can be written to take effect on a specific date or the occurrence of some event.

  • Springing. A POA becomes effective only when a specific event occurs ("springs" into action).

Termination

All POAs, regardless of type, terminate upon the death of the principal.

Note that a POA can also be terminated by having it revoked, having it ruled invalid, finding the agent grossly negligent, or if the agent is deemed unable to fulfill the duties assigned in the document. These are all legal actions that must be filed with and decided by a court of law.

The agent, once appointed, is obligated to perform the duties as outlined in the POA and must continue to serve in the principal's best interests until legally released from the POA. The agent cannot simply decide to forfeit their role and responsibility.

  • The agent may be held liable for any damages or losses that result from failure to fulfill their duties (whether by action or inaction).

POA Types

MEDICAL POA. Also known as a Healthcare POA, healthcare proxy, healthcare surrogate, or healthcare representative. Designates someone to make medical decisions on an individual's behalf if they cannot do so themselves. The appointed agent, often a trusted family member or friend, is authorized to make healthcare choices, including treatment options, surgeries, and end-of-life decisions, ensuring that the individual's medical preferences are followed when they cannot communicate or decide for themselves. A Medical POA is a crucial component of advance care planning, allowing individuals to have a trusted advocate for their healthcare needs.

FINANCIAL:

  • Durable (Statutory) POA. Grants authority to an appointed agent to handle financial and legal matters on behalf of the principal. The term durable implies that the authority granted remains valid even if the principal becomes incapacitated. This document is particularly useful for situations where the principal may be unable to manage their own financial affairs due to illness, disability, or other reasons (incapacitated). It provides an agent with the ability to make decisions, sign documents, and manage various financial and legal transactions on behalf of the principal.

  • General POA. Grants broad authority to an appointed agent to handle various financial and legal matters on behalf of the principal. This document allows the agent to manage bank accounts, sign documents, buy or sell property, and engage in other financial transactions as specified in the document. It is a comprehensive tool that gives the agent significant powers to act on behalf of the principal in financial and legal affairs. This POA is typically non-durable, meaning that the agent's authority terminates if the principal becomes unable to manage their own affairs due to illness, disability, or other reasons (incapacitated).

  • Limited or Special POA. Grants authority to an appointed agent for specific and restricted powers on behalf of the principal. Unlike a general power of attorney, a limited power of attorney narrows the scope of authority to specific actions or transactions, such as selling a property, managing investments, or handling a specific financial matter. This document is tailored to the particular needs of the principal, providing flexibility while limiting the agent's authority to the specified tasks outlined in the document.

REAL ESTATE POA. Grants authority to an appointed agent to act on behalf of the property owner in real estate transactions. This includes buying, selling, leasing, managing, or otherwise dealing with real estate. The document outlines the specific powers granted to the agent and is often used when the property owner is unable to handle these transactions personally due to absence, illness, or other reasons. The real estate power of attorney provides a legal mechanism for someone to represent the property owner in real estate-related matters.

TAX POA. Grants authority to an appointed agent, often referred to as the tax attorney or tax representative, to act on behalf of the principal (or business) in matters related to taxes. This may include filing tax returns, responding to tax inquiries, negotiating with tax authorities, and generally managing tax-related affairs. The document specifies the powers granted to the appointed agent and is useful when the taxpayer is unable to handle these matters personally or prefers to delegate tax-related responsibilities to a trusted representative.

VEHICLE POA. Grants authority to an appointed agent to act on behalf of the vehicle owner in specific matters related to the vehicle. This may include tasks such as transferring ownership, registering or titling the vehicle, obtaining or transferring license plates, and handling other administrative matters related to the vehicle. The document outlines the specific powers granted to the agent and is useful when the vehicle owner is unable to handle these tasks personally due to absence or other reasons. The vehicle power of attorney provides a legal means for someone else to represent the vehicle owner in these specific matters.

Revoking a POA

A revocation of power of attorney is a legal document used to formally cancel or revoke the powers granted in a previously executed POA. This document is typically created by the principal. The revocation is a clear and detailed statement expressing the intent to terminate the authority given to the agent.

Creating and properly executing a POA revocation ensures that there is a formal and legally recognized record of the termination of the agent's authority. This document is important for maintaining clarity and avoiding any confusion about the status of the powers previously granted.

RESOURCES

AgingCare

American Bar Association

Corporate Finance Institute (CFI)

FREEWILL

LegalZoom

Open AI - ChatGPT

No content in this app, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for any direct legal advice you receive from your lawyer or other qualified legal professionals.

About us

Helpful is an app to make caregiving easier. We integrate your loved one’s insurance benefits, medical records and caregiving guides into an immediate, accessible and user-friendly experience. Helpful supports your care needs by eliminating administrative tasks and providing technology to support your caregiving experience.

Get started for free
Older man is smiling at his relative caregiver