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A special power of attorney is a legal document written by the so-called 'Principal' that details the specified and specific wishes and directions for an 'Agent', 'Attorney-in-fact' or 'Attorney' to carry out.

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What is a Special Power of Attorney?

You can grant a power of attorney to someone, called your agent or attorney-in fact, to act on your behalf in a wide range of circumstances, including:

  • Money management
  • Property and estate management
  • Healthcare
  • Business
  • Personal matters

Depending on the amount of authority you give to your attorney-in-fact, a power of attorney can be classified as a General Power of Attorney or a Special Power of Attorney.

A Special Power of Attorney is drawn up to give your the attorney-in-fact authority to handle a particular task that is often limited in scope. For example, a specific power such as selling a piece of property, selling an automobile, closing a bank account at a financial institution, filing your tax returns, running your business while you are away on vacation, etc.

Other Names for a Special Power of Attorney

  • A Limited Power of Attorney

Special Power of Attorney vs. Durable/Lasting Power of Attorney vs. General Power of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney remains effective even after if you become incapacitated. Unless a power of attorney is durable, it will become void when you become incapacitated or when you are officially declared incompetent.

What distinguishes a General Power of Attorney from a Special Power of Attorney is the amount of legal authority granted to the attorney-in-fact. A typical unlimited General Power of Attorney grants the attorney-in-fact the authority to make financial, legal, medical, and business decisions on behalf of the principal. Essentially, the attorney-in fact is granted the legal power of the principal's signature in all matters, as well as, access to information that would otherwise only be accessible by the principal.

A Will vs. Power of Attorney

A Will is an estate planning document that is concerned with the deposition of your estate after you die, such as passing your assets on to your family members.  A power of attorney is a lifetime document that is concerned with giving someone else the legal authority to act on your behalf in businesses, financial, personal and/or medical matters while you are alive and can't act for yourself. A power of attorney is automatically revoked when you die. Thus, neither a Will nor a Power of Attorney is a substitute for the other.

Can Special and General Powers of Attorney be Made Durable?

Yes. You can add a durability clause to create an enduring power of attorney in both a Special and General Power of Attorney. What's more, you can create what is referred to as a Springing Power of Attorney by specifying that the power of attorney only becomes effective if and when you become incapacitated.

Who Needs a Special Power of Attorney?

People who may find a Special Power of Attorney useful include:

Anyone who is over 18 and who anticipates circumstances where they will need someone else to act on their behalf, perhaps due to absence or incapacity.

Anyone who anticipates having to handle someone else's affairs for a specific purpose or length of time.

What Can You Use A Special Power of Attorney For?

You can use a Special Power of Attorney form to grant someone else the authority to handle any type of matter you anticipate will need to be dealt with while you are unable or unavailable to do so yourself. A Special Power of Attorney may be granted for a limited time period or specific purpose related:

  • Healthcare
  • Care and custody of children
  • The sale or disposal of assets
  • Buying or selling a property
  • Managing your business
  • Managing your finances
  • And more…

Legal Considerations

  • A Special Power of Attorney is a legal document that grants your agent or attorney-in-fact the authority to act on your behalf under certain, specified circumstances as outlined in the document.
  • Since the agent or attorney-in-fact that you name in your special power of attorney will have the legal authority to act on your behalf in the circumstances specified in the document, you should be sure that you can trust this person to act in your best interests.
  • It is important to keep in mind that you still maintain the right to act on your own behalf.
  • You can revoke the Special Power of Attorney whenever you see fit. In this way, you will be taking away all of the authority that was granted by the document to the person that it names as your attorney-in-fact.
  • Many believe that you only need a power of attorney when you are elderly. However, unexpected life events can happen at any age and if a power of attorney has not been put in place, your loved ones may have to go through the expensive and time-consuming legal process of seeking a conservatorship to handle your affairs. This is made all the more undesirable due to the fact that neither you nor your family will have any control over who the court appoints to handle your affairs.
  • Anyone over 18 can create multiple special powers of attorney, authorizing different people or agencies to act on their behalf under each separate document.
  • The laws and requirements for creating a valid power of attorney are governed by the state in which you live. These laws vary from state to state.

Am I Required to File a Power of Attorney in a Government Office?

This is not generally necessary. However, where the sale and purchase of real estate is concerned, this must be recorded in the county real estate records.

Is a Power of Attorney Active After Someone Passes Away?

No. A power of attorney is only active and effective as long as you (the principal) are alive.

Download a PDF or Word Template

Special Power of Attorney

A Special Power of Attorney document details the specific wishes and directions for an 'Agent', 'Attorney-in-fact' or 'Attorney' to take decisions on behalf of the 'Principal'. It covers: • The term or length of the delegated power(s), i.e. fixed or periodic • The amount and frequency of specified activities needing to be carried out • Financial, business or property details • Who is responsible for specified activities and to what extent they have authority to act on the Principal's behalf • Other details

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