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Powers of Attorney, and Types Thereof

A power of attorney is a legal document that allows one person to legally make decisions for another. The person who signs a power of attorney (most often referred to as the “principal”) appoints another person (the “agent”) to make decisions on their behalf. The agent is expected to act in the best interest of the principal when serving in that capacity.


There are a number of different subjects that can be addressed by powers of attorney. In Tennessee, powers of attorney can be drafted to allow the agent to make decisions involving finances, medical care, care of minor children, and more. If you are considering appointing an agent via a power of attorney, consult with a reputable, licensed, professional attorney to discuss what sorts of decision-making power a potential agent should have and to draft a document that is right for your particular situation.


Regardless of the subject matter, powers of attorney typically come in four varieties: general or non-durable, durable, limited or special, and springing, or a combination of these.

A general or non-durable power of attorney allows the agent to make decisions (most often financial decisions) on behalf of the principal, but ends if the principal revokes the document, passes away, or becomes incapacitated. A durable power of attorney is very similar, but does not end if the principal becomes incapacitated, thus allowing the agent to make decisions for the incapacitated principal.


A limited (or special) power of attorney is like a general power of attorney but limits the decision-making power of the agent to only specific areas or actions. Whereas a general power of attorney might allow the agent to make most financial decisions on behalf of the principal, a limited power of attorney might only allow the agent to manage the principal’s investment accounts, cash the principal’s checks, or sell the principal’s property, but not make other financial decisions. What powers are given to the agent are determined by the language of the document.


Finally, a springing power of attorney is a power of attorney that does not take effect immediately after the document is signed; it only takes effect if some condition is met. Most commonly, this condition is the incapacitation of the principal. Thus, a springing durable power of attorney is common, allowing an agent to make decisions if the principal is incapacitated, and only giving the agent the power to do that if and when an incapacitation occurs. This is an example of a mixture of the types we've detailed here. Further, it would also be possible to have a springing durable limited power of attorney, where an agent can make only certain decisions if the principal becomes incapacitated, and only gains that power if the incapacitation occurs.


We hope this post is helpful for understanding what a power of attorney is and its different types. If you have questions about how this type of document might fit into your own situation, please contact a reputable attorney for guidance.


Disclaimer: This blog is published solely for informational purposes, and nothing posted herein should be considered legal advice. By viewing this blog and/or the posts contained herein, you agree that no attorney-client relationship is created between yourself and the Sents Law Firm. Information found within this blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a reputable attorney. Please consult such an attorney for any questions regarding the topics discussed in this blog and how they may impact any specific situation.