General Power of Attorney

Bookmark and Share

A general Power of Attorney gives another person the authority to do whatever you can do. Think very carefully before signing this type of document. It should be used sparingly. This document ends when you become incapacitated or die.

This document gives the agent authority in all situations (except for those specifically excluded in the document), including handling bank and investment transactions, accessing safe deposit boxes, buying and selling property, entering into contracts, filing tax returns, and managing government benefits. In some states, a general power of attorney could include creating or amending trusts during the senior's lifetime, or transferring assets into trusts. A general power of attorney lasts until a date specified in the document or, if there is no stated ending date, until the principal -- the person -- dies or revokes the document. A general power of attorney also ends when the person becomes incapacitated, unless the document is also designated as "durable" (see below). A general power of attorney does not, however, mean that the person gives up authority over his own affairs. As long as he is mentally competent, he keeps authority over all his own financial decisions, with the agent acting only as an "assistant" financial manager.

The General Power of Attorney is the type you might use to authorise someone to operate a bank account for you, or sell your car or house after you go overseas, or whatever. It has one very important limitation - it becomes ineffective if you become mentally incapable of managing your own affairs. There is another type however that "endures" if you become mentally incapable.