Power of Attorney – What Military Members Need to Know

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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…

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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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of The Military Wallet. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

Featured In: Ryan's writing has been featured in the following publications: Forbes, Military.com, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, Reserve & National Guard Magazine (print and online editions), Military Influencer Magazine, Cash Money Life, The Military Guide, USAA, Go Banking Rates, and many other publications.

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  1. anon says

    So my boyfriend joined LA National Guard in 2008 & at the time he was a minor, but with parental consent/signing etc he was able to join. In 2009 he signed a form of POA called “Procuration appointing her (his mom) as representative, mandatory, and attorney at fact”; at the time he was single around 19 years old and didn’t have any kids etc thus why his mom was chosen. He doesn’t even recall specifics about this signing & what exactly he allowed her to control. We are in 2019 and his mother holds that POA over his head for everything even goes as far as trying to control things with his son & she continuously brags/tells everyone she has POA. We’ve tried to talk to her about it but honestly there is no way she would give us information or even the document so we can try to get this terminated. What should we do to get this dealt with. He’s not incompetent, we take care of bills, his son, etc. We are currently getting other legal things handled and we did not want to have to fight with his mom about this, but it seems like that’s what is going to happen. I’ve been doing research with the information I have, but we don’t have much. The lady who drew up this document is no longer doing this and apparently according to coworker’s her work was ‘sketchy’ to begin with. I hope its expired, that would be the best option but I have a feeling she had it drawn up to where it doesn’t have expiration. I read about revoking POA, but just looking for some advice.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Anon, your boyfriend should speak with the JAG at his base legal office. They can advise him about his options. The JAG offers free legal assistance to military members. Best wishes to you both.

  2. Allen G Schaefer says

    I have an acquaintance who disparately needs a financial POA. She and I don’t know each other well enough that I feel comfortable stepping up as her POA. She is deployed and her mom normally handles her financial affairs while she is deployed. Unfortunately, her mom is now critically ill and unable to help. Does the military have some sort of support program to secure a POA for single military persons who have no family etc to stand in a POA’s

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Allen,

      Thank you for your comment. The military has several plans in place.

      The military requires single parent military members and dual military couples to have a Family Care Plan in the event they deploy. The Family Care Plan ensures the military member has a trusted family member or friend who can help assist with child care and other financial matters. It is generally recommended that the individual also obtain a Power of Attorney in these situations.

      The military does not require members to have a Power of Attorney or Family Care Plan if they do not have children.

      The military also requires members to go through pre-deployment briefings covering all of this information.

      Most financial matters can be taken care of even while deployed. However, there may be some items that would be difficult to handle while deployed. It is in these latter situations that a POA is advisable.

      So yes, the military does have plans in place. However, it is up to the individual to initiate these plans. And it sounds like the servicemember had her mom in place. But it is unfortunate that she is ill and can not currently assist.

      I’m not sure the best plan of action for the member. It sounds like she should speak with her legal office or supervision to try and find a solution.

      And I would not take on that kind of responsibility if you do not know the person well enough or do not feel comfortable acting in her place for financial matters. It could be a very stressful situation and open the door to potential problems down the road. If you are considering it, it might not be a bad idea to speak with a legal specialist first to ensure you understand the full implications.

      I wish everyone involved the best in this situation.

  3. Alexcia Rullan says

    I need some help. I just found out today that I was part a lawsuit as a minor before I joined the service. And it was settled while I was in service. At the time I turned 18, I immediately left for the Army after high school and never knew the process was still in development. My mother told me a few months after I had joined the Army that I was excluded from the lawsuit because I was waived “accepted” into the service during my physical examination at MEPS inprocessing. Today I learned that 10 years ago in 2004, my mother took a power of attorney out on me. I did get a 1 page copy from the attorney who represented the case 10 years ago, but it has my name my mother’s name and no signature and is incomplete. The lawyer today advised me that in 2004 it was settled and she was cut payment on my behalf due to the acting power of attorney signed after I turned 18, I never saw this money or even knew it existed. My mother did pressure me a long time for me to grant her power of attorney over my affairs and I refused and 10 years later I find out she had obtained one illegally. I CAN PROVE FRAUD as my printed name signature does not match and it’s one page long on this document there is no signature nor is there any specifications . I am a disabled veteran currently and I am not sure where to start with this. Please help. I know I need a lawyer but what kind of law would I start with?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Alexcia, It sounds like need to find a lawyer who practices law in the state where the fraud was committed. He or she will be able to advise you on your rights and whether or not it makes sense to pursue any form of legal action. Keep in mind that the statue of limitations is different in each state, so you may be running low on time to pursue legal action.

      I would also advise you to speak to your mother. I don’t know how your relationship is at this time, but this is something to consider before you decide to pursue any legal action. Pursuing legal action against a family member is a tricky thing and should be avoided whenever possible.

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