What is a Power of Attorney?

Posted by ANGELA RICH HARTMANN | Dec 22, 2020

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows the principal to appoint an agent to act on his or her behalf. Powers of Attorney are only effective during the life of the principal, and the designation ends upon the death of the principal.
There are different types of Powers of Attorney (POA), each with a unique purpose. A General Power of Attorney will allow the agent to perform almost any act as the principal, such as making and managing financial decisions. A general POA is terminated with the principal becomes incapacitated, revokes the POA or passes away. A Durable Power of Attorney includes a clause that maintains the agents power after incapacitation of the principal. A Limited Power of Attorney is on that serves a specific purpose, for example granting the agent authority to sign documents or sell real estate on the principals behalf. A Springing Power of Attorney may spring into effect only when and if a certain event, such as when the principal becomes incapacitated. There are also Medical Powers of Attorney which would allow an agent to determine what care the principal receives, including hospital care, surgery, psychiatric treatment, home health care, etc.
An agent under a Power of Attorney cannot transfer their right to someone else, nor can they change a principals will. They have a duty to act in the principal's best interest. They cannot act on behalf of the principal after their death (unless they are doing so as the executor of their will, or the principal dies intestate and is appointed administrator of the will).

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About the Author


Angela Rich Hartmann is a New Jersey attorney serving clients in the areas of estate, business, and real estate law.