A power of attorney "letter" is a legal document that is not typically in letter format. If you want someone to make decisions in your place, you sign a power of attorney document spelling out who you are naming and the authority you confer upon him or her. It is possible to put the document in letter form, as long as all other legal requirements are met.
Purpose of Power of Attorney
The purpose of a power of attorney is to give another person authority to act in your stead. The law does not mandate that the power of attorney be for any set length of time or that any particular breadth of authority be conferred. You are free to make a power of attorney that lasts for one day only (for example, a 24-hour authority to sell your car for you) or one that lasts indefinitely, until revoked. Be sure to identify yourself, the person you are naming and the scope and duration of power. Legal assistance is often invaluable in specifying the exact scope of the authority you wish to confer.
Creating a Power of Attorney
If you decide to act without an attorney, you can create a power of attorney by using a form provided by your local court or state bar association. If you purchase one at an office supply store, check state requirements to be sure the form meets them. State requirements vary; many states require that you sign and date the document before witnesses and/or a notary; some, like Minnesota, require that the person appointed also sign the form. If you opt to create the power of attorney in letter format, simply enter "To whom it may concern" above the beginning of the form.
Types of Powers of Attorney
Two common types of powers of attorney are financial and medical. If you give someone a financial power of attorney, she conducts business on your behalf. A general financial power of attorney confers authority to take any action with or regarding your finances that you could take yourself. Medical or health care powers of attorney give someone the authority to make decisions about your medical treatment on your behalf. Both financial and medical powers of attorney can be limited in any way you specify in the document.
Durable Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney generally terminates automatically if the person making the document becomes mentally incapacitated. But a power of attorney that is labeled "durable" does not. Durable powers of attorney confer authority that continues in full force if you become incapacitated. For example, if you draw up a durable medical power of attorney, you give a trusted person authority to make medical decisions for you when you are no longer capable of making them yourself. You can revoke a power of attorney at any point while you are of sound mind; an incapacitated person cannot revoke a durable power of attorney.