A power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone the right to make decisions for another. Anyone mentally competent person over the age of 18 can create a POA, and she can revoke the document or change the POA as long as she is mentally competent.
A power of attorney is a document one person creates in order to give someone else authority to act in her place. It is the person signing the POA who gets to define the scope of the authority granted, which can be as broad or as narrow as the maker chooses. She also gets to choose the person who is named as POA, who, despite the term "power of attorney," need not be an attorney.
Many state governments provide forms that residents can use to create POAs. Naming the person who will get authority is fairly simple, but the more complex and important task is deciding on the scope of the authority given and describing that accurately and precisely in words. The person must sign the document in the presence of witnesses and/or a notary, depending on state law, who sign after the maker. Most POAs are for financial or health care matters.
Duration of Powers
The POA document itself specifies the duration of the authority granted. When the POA is for a narrow purpose, the duration might be very limited. For example, someone might give a three-month POA to allow a real estate agent to sign off on documents competing the sale of her house. If the duration of the authority is not set out in the document, it continues until the death of the POA or the maker, or the revocation of the POA. A regular POA is revoked if the maker becomes incompetent, but a durable POA continues.
Amending or Revoking POA
As long as the person making the POA is competent, she can revoke the POA for any reason or without specifying a reason. The revocation document should be drawn up with the same formalities that the POA required, and the person who held the POA must be given notice of the revocation.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.