If you ask around about powers of attorney, you will hear all sorts of information, and lots of it contradicts itself. So, what is the real deal? When do you need a power of attorney, what kind do you need, etc? Every person has a different situation, so every person has a different answer. The more you know about powers of attorney, the better the chances that you’ll have the right one when you need it.
A power of attorney is a document giving one person the right to act on behalf of another person. These are commonly used in military situation because the service member is not always available to take care of their personal business.
The simplest document is a general power of attorney. A general power of attorney doesn’t include many specifics and gives a broad range of powers. General powers of attorney are more likely to be misused, so many companies prefer that you have a specific power of attorney that has the details of a particular account or transaction.
Which One Do You Need?
There are two issues that should help you decide whether you need a general power of attorney or specific powers of attorney.
First, what type of power of attorney does the company/person/organization to whom you are presenting the power of attorney want? It is always, 100%, up to the discretion of the person accepting the power of attorney whether they will accept it or not. If they want a specific power of attorney, that’s what you need. If they want it to say X, Y, or Z, then it needs to say those things. If you know that you are going to be doing a transaction with a power of attorney, ask before you get it written up. Many companies have their own formats that they prefer.
Second, how much power do you need to give? You want to ensure that you’re only granting the amount of power that is necessary to complete the business planned. There is no need to give your friend a general power of attorney over your whole life so that he or she can sell a car for you.
What Kind of Specific Power of Attorney?
There are nearly an unlimited number of different types of specific powers of attorney. I recommend that you have:
- one for each piece of real estate,
- one for each vehicle,
- one for each credit card,
- one for insurance,
- one for military housing,
- one for civilian housing,
- one for taxes,
- one to talk to the base finance folks, and
- anything else you can imagine.
It’s a long list, and the legal office may tell you that you are being ridiculous, but this is one situation where you really want to be over-prepared. I have seen too many people stuck in frustrating situations that could have been 100% avoided by having the right powers of attorney, like a friend who was buying a house and the closing company decided that they didn’t like the power of attorney that she had. Or the friend who didn’t update her powers of attorney, and her husband deployed on one of those crazy come-home-for-four-hours and leave for months deployments, and was given notice to vacate her rented house the very next day. Or me, who couldn’t pay my husband’s credit card bill because I didn’t have the right form.
Questions? Comments? Experiences? I love to hear them!