Power of Attorney – What Military Members Need to Know

When you deploy, you are usually advised by your squadron or base legal representative to get a power of attorney in the event you need someone to assist you with financial or other legal issues while you are out of the country. Creating a power of attorney can also be a good idea for your estate plan.

A power of attorney can make things easier on you, but it can also give someone a lot of power, so you need to select the appropriate power of attorney for your needs. Let’s take a look at how a power of attorney works so you can make a better decision.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document in which you give someone else control to act on your behalf and authority to make decisions for you.  The person receiving power of attorney powers is called the “agent” and you are called the “principal” or “issuer” of the agreement.

When you give someone else power of attorney, it does not mean that you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself.  It just gives someone else the ability to also act on your behalf should you need it.

If you are capable of making your own financial decisions – you can continue to do so. But having a power of attorney in place means if you lose that ability for any reason, you grant the authority to someone else to make those decisions. For example, if you become hospitalized and someone else needs to do your banking or pay bills for you, a power of attorney agreement makes that possible.

Types of Power of Attorney

There are several different types of power of attorney when dealing with your finances.  These include:

General Power of Attorney

An individual named the “General Power of Attorney” has the authority in all situations, except for any that are specifically excluded in the Power of Attorney document.  This person can handle investment and banking transactions, enter into contracts, buy and sell property, manage government benefits and file tax returns for another person.  Usually, an elderly person may grant one of their children or younger family members as Power of Attorney to assist them with their affairs as they age.  In some states, General Power of Attorneys can also create or change trusts and move assets into trusts on behalf of the individual granting Power of Attorney.

When someone grants a General Power of Attorney, they do not give up their rights to make decisions over their own affairs – as long as the person is mentally able, he or she maintains authority over all of their own affairs and decision making.

A General Power of Attorney remains such until the date specified in the document, or more commonly, until the person granting the Power of Attorney becomes incapacitated or passes on.

A General Power of Attorney should only be used when you implicitly trust the other individual because of how much power it gives them over your affairs.

Specific Power of Attorney

A person named a Specific Power of Attorney has authority over a specific situation as described in the document.  It may be authority over business operations, debt collections, or the sale of a home, for example.

Specific Power of Attorney documents remain in affect until the date indicated in the document, or until the specific transaction is completed, or the issuer of the power passes on.

Durable Power of Attorney

When someone is granted Durable Power of Attorney, they are given authority over another person’s financial affairs if he or she is unable to handle them on their own either temporarily or permanently.  Most people recommend that Durable Power of Attorney documents are written as “springing” Power of Attorney – so that you can specify what kind of events will make the Power of Attorney document active and give authority to the person named.  Doctors are hesitate to label anyone as incapacitated or unable to make their own decisions, even when it is obvious, so having a “springing” Power of Attorney can remedy the situation by indicating specific events.

Springing Power of Attorney

When someone is granted Springing Power of Attorney, it becomes effective when the issuer becomes incapacitated (unable to handle their own affairs) or when the person travels outside the country, etc.  The events which transfer the Power of Attorney are specified within the document.

Choose your power of attorney and agent wisely

A power of attorney gives someone the legal right to act on your behalf. Due to the nature of a power of attorney, you want to make sure you only assign a power of attorney when absolutely necessary, and if possible only for specific events or for a set time frame. It is highly recommended to hire a lawyer or seek legal counsel before entering into a power of attorney agreement.

*Note: This article is for general informational purposes only and is not to be considered legal advice. Please visit with a professional legal representative before choosing which power of attorney is right for your situation.

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Date published: October 8, 2010. Last updated: January 12, 2012.

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Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of this site. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years in the USAF and also writes about money management, small business, and career topics at Cash Money Life. You can also see his profile on Google

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