A Power of Attorney allows an individual to appoint someone else to act on his or her behalf. The person signing the Power of Attorney is known as the “Principal” and the individual who is given the power to act is referred to as the “Agent.”
A Power of Attorney can be either limited or general in nature. A Limited Power of Attorney is utilized to allow an agent to perform a specific task, or handle a narrow range of affairs. For instance, perhaps a member of the armed forces intends to buy a home, but is deployed overseas prior to the time of closing. That individual could sign a Limited Power of Attorney authorizing an Agent to sign all documents necessary to purchase the home, such as the mortgage, and other settlement/closing paperwork.
A general Power of Attorney is much broader, and allows a Principal to appoint an Agent to act on his or her behalf to perform a broad array of tasks. In fact, a comprehensive general Power of Attorney can provide an Agent with the ability to perform virtually any tasks that the Principal could legally do for himself or herself. Most general Powers of Attorney are also “durable” in nature. This means that the general Power of Attorney is effective as soon as it is signed by the principal and remains valid even if the principal becomes incapacitated.
This way, if an individual becomes unconscious due to a medical situation, or legally unable to make decisions due to dementia or some other chronic medical problem, the Agent can continue to act on behalf of the Principal. Naturally, as long as the Principal is competent to make decisions, he or she remains in control, and can even terminate the Agent’s services, or modify the Power of Attorney