December 20

What’s the Difference Between General and Special (or Limited) Power of Attorney?


(If you’re not sure what a Power of Attorney is in the first place, see our article here for a quick explanation: What Is a Power of Attorney and Why Would I Need One?

There are many kinds of Powers of Attorney (POA) designed for different purposes. 

Two of the most common are General Power of Attorney and Special (or Limited) Power of Attorney. 

What’s the difference between them?

General Power of Attorney 

With a General Power of Attorney, you give someone legal authority to act for you, usually in all matters. 

This kind of POA can allow the person you choose (called the “agent” or “attorney-in-fact,”) to make decisions for you in every area of your life, from managing your bank accounts to buying or selling property, completing applications, or cashing your checks. 

You CAN limit the permissions given within your General POA, however, or prohibit your agent from being able to take certain specific actions. 

You can end your General POA whenever you want to.

When a General Power of Attorney Won’t Help You

A General POA is normally terminated if you become incapacitated. 

To have your life’s affairs handled for you during incapacitation, you’ll have to set up a different kind of POA in advance.

If you’d like a POA that will allow someone to take care of your affairs if you become incapacitated, you may want to consider a Durable Power of Attorney..

Special Power of Attorney (aka: Limited Power of Attorney)

A Special (or Limited) Power of Attorney lets your agent act for you only for a specific purpose, and often only for a specified time period.

For instance, you may give your agent the authority to sell a particular property for you, file your taxes for you during a specific year, or make medical decisions for your children while you’re away. 

Once the assigned task is complete, or the timeframe has elapsed, this special power of attorney expires and becomes invalid.

As with the General POA, the Special POA will be terminated if you become incapacitated while it’s in effect.

Other kinds:

There are a number of other kinds of Powers of Attorney you may want to learn about that can serve you for specific needs. 

Want help?

If you’d like the security of professional advice and help creating a Power of Attorney, our team at McQuillan and Hohman Law is here to help you.


POA, power of attorney

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