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Have you heard the term “power of attorney” and wondered what it is and if it would benefit you to have one?

Let’s break it down.

A power of attorney (frequently referred to as a POA) is a legal document. It grants a person you name the authority to make decisions for you— without your direct supervision. These decisions could be financial, medical, or legal depending on the type of power of attorney granted. A POA can specify a time when it will go into effect, or it can take effect if you become incapacitated and can no longer make your own decisions.

The person issuing a power of attorney is known as the “principal”. The person empowered to act by the POA is referred to as an “agent” or “attorney-in-fact”. The person you appoint to be your agent can have very limited powers— such as signing a single real estate document— or they be granted the authority to make life-changing decisions for you. Your agent should be someone you trust to act in your best interest.

There are five primary types of power of attorney:

  • Limited
  • General
  • Durable
  • Springing
  • Medical

Here’s a quick review of each type:


A limited power of attorney grants your attorney-in-fact the power to act on your behalf in a very specific way. A limited power of attorney generally stipulates its own end time and clearly outlines its limited nature. A limited power of attorney is often used for a one-time financial transaction.


A general power of attorney is more comprehensive than a limited power of attorney. It grants your attorney-in-fact all of the rights and powers you legally have and allows your agent to act on your behalf in most (if not all) situations. A general power of attorney can be made effective immediately or can come into effect only if you become incapacitated. It can also end if you become incapacitated, at the time of your death, or at a time specified in the document.


A durable power of attorney usually grants all the same rights and powers as a general power of attorney, but it is considered durable because it specifies that it remains in effect after you become incapacitated.


A springing power of attorney allows your attorney-in-fact to act for you, but it only “springs” into effect if you become incapacitated. If you are considering granting a springing power of attorney, the document should clearly define what level of incapacitation will trigger the power of attorney to take effect.


A medical power of attorney gives authority to your agent to take control over your healthcare decisions should you become incapacitated. It usually requires the consent of your attending physician—since they must declare you incapacitated—and it allows your attorney-in-fact to make medical decisions on your behalf. A medical power of attorney can allow someone to make life-saving decisions for you, but should only be granted to an agent you trust with your life.

Granting a power of attorney is no easy task, but FIDE Law is ready to assist you. We understand the intricacies of the various powers of attorney and can provide practical, unbiased advice on which one is right for your situation. Call us at 540-371-4500, or visit us online at, and let us review your specific needs. We’ll guide you through this complex process in a competent and professional manner.

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