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Oct 15, 2021 | Estate Planning, Q&A

What are the different types of Power of Attorney?

Tags: Heirs
Power of Attorney (POA) Document

Understanding the various types of Power of Attorney (POA) can save you from unfortunate situations. It doesn’t matter if you’re choosing a type of POA to make decisions on your behalf or to help a loved one, understanding what each entails is critical.


Limited (or Special) Power of Attorney:

A Limited POA provides an individual power to make decisions for a loved one on a specified basis. For instance, you may assign someone as this, to let them sign a critical document when you are traveling. Other instance include allowing someone to make a single financial decision on your behalf or to cash checks for you. A Limited POA is often specified for a period of time or a specific task. It would also be revoked if the named individual were to pass or become incapacitated (i.e., go into a coma).

General Power of Attorney:

A General POA has the powers most often associated with a Power of Attorney. They have the ability to sign documents, pay bills, conduct financial transactions, etc., on the designated individual’s behalf. It is important to note that an individual does not need to be incapacitated to assign this type of POA. Keep in mind, it does end upon incapacitation or death unless rescinded before then. This Power of Attorney offers the individual extensive powers and should be carefully considered.

Durable Power of Attorney:

A Durable POA can be general or limited in scope, but the key difference is that it remains in effect until death, even if the individual were to become incapacitated. Without this type of POA, the courts would have to appoint a conservator or guardian for an incapacitated individual. Their General POA would not automatically carry over, allowing the court to assign a different individual. Like all other types of Power of Attorney, this may be rescinded at any time.

Springing Power of Attorney:

While a Springing POA remains in effect until death, an individual would need to become incapacitated (or a named event occur) to take effect. Since it does not take immediate effect, it is critical that incapacitation or a specific event be clearly defined.

Medical Power of Attorney:

This type of POA is also often known as an advance directive. It provides the attorney-in-fact the authority to make decisions regarding the named individual’s medical needs. While this POA goes into effect immediately, the power isn’t granted until a physician declares the individual mentally incompetent.


Choosing the correct type of POA can be confusing and challenging, but it is critical to do so correctly. For instance, if you were named as a loved one’s General POA, and they were to have a major medical event occur that ruled them as incapacitated, you could lose your powers to assist them with their needs. Had you had the rights of a Durable POA, you would maintain your privileges without having the court system get involved.

Our advisors are well versed in the various types of POA and are happy to work with you on understanding the differences and selecting the correct type for your family if the need were to arise. With that said, your Estate Attorney should be the final authority in this selection. Please reach out to your advisor with any questions regarding Power of Attorney or Estate Planning.

Author: Dan Savage | Wealth Management Advisor
Written: October 15, 2021