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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

What Are Special Powers of Attorney?

Special powers of attorney grant the agent limited authority to person a specific task or category of actions. The agent is the person the power of attorney names to take action on behalf of the principal. The principal is the person who makes and signs the power of attorney. Another term for special power of attorney is “limited power of attorney” or “specific power of attorney.”

Special powers of attorney can be an essential part of your estate plan as well as deal with unique situations throughout your lifetime. A California estate planning attorney can answer your questions and explain what special powers of attorney are.

Situations for Special Powers of Attorney

Special powers of attorney exist to help in temporary, limited situations. Here are some examples of how a special power of attorney can make your life more convenient:

Real Estate Closing

You can create a special power of attorney to give someone the legal authority to attend a real estate closing and sign documents for you. Let’s say that you have to attend a multi-day, mandatory conference as part of your job. The meetings will be in another city. You bought a house, and the closing date falls on one of the days that you have to be out of town at the conference.

Rather than risk losing your job to attend the real estate closing, you can sign a special power of attorney that allows someone else to go to the closing and sign the documents for you. The property will be in your name, not the person you designate to act for you. People often name a trusted friend or relative or a professional, like an attorney, to attend the closing for them.

The document will only authorize the person to sign the documents needed for the closing. The power of attorney will expire soon after the closing.

Unavailability for an Extended Time

When a person will be unavailable for more than a few weeks, it can make sense to get a special power of attorney so that someone can handle the financial issues for that person. For example, you might want to go on a six-month or year-long humanitarian service or research project in a remote area.

You will have less anxiety during that time if you know that someone is making sure your bills get paid and taking care of your other financial matters while you are away. The power of attorney will only last as long as you specify in the document, for example, six months, a year, or some other length.

General Power of Attorney

It might help you understand special powers of attorney better if you have information about general powers of attorney. When you sign a general power of attorney, you designate someone to act on your behalf, usually on financial matters. The document will call that person your agent.

The agent will have the legal authority to take whatever actions you identify in the document. Typically, these powers are broad, allowing the agent to do things like manage your investments, pay your bills, and handle your finances.

You cannot give the agent authority to take actions you could not take. For example, a 16-year-old cannot authorize an agent to buy real estate because the 16-year-old does not have the legal capacity to buy real estate.

You can revoke the power of attorney at any time, and the document terminates when you become incapacitated or die. If you want a power of attorney that will authorize someone to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated, you need a “durable” power of attorney, not a general power of attorney.

Many people have more than one power of attorney, for example, a general or durable power of attorney, and healthcare power of attorney, and from time to time, a special power of attorney. You can talk to a California estate planning lawyer to find out which types of power of attorney can work best for you and your situation. Contact us today.


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