The Ultimate Guide To The 4 Types Of Power Of Attorney

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I did the research for my life insurance clients per their requests on which power of attorneys to use. This allowed me to come across a lot of information they found to be helpful in their estate planning.

I have decided to put together all of this information into a  quick but complete guide on helping you learn what the 4 different types of power of attorneys are so that you can pick  which one you should use for your situation.

Throughout this article I will refer to the principal and the agent.The individual assigned to act on your behalf through a power of attorney is known as the agent. You are the principal. 

power of attorney typesGeneral Power Of Attorney

Unless you specify in writing when the general power of authority becomes effective, the authority to act on your behalf becomes available to the agent as soon as you sign the power of attorney form.

This individual can do anything and everything that you can do without having to let you know. This includes delegating authority to others for any reason. 

This authority for a general power of attorney automatically ends upon your death, automatically ends if you become incapacitated, or if you revoke the authority in writing.

power of attorney typesLimited Power Of Attorney

This gives the agent the authority to act on your behalf for a specific purpose or task. This could be any purpose requested by the principal. There are no restrictions to the type of request. 

The document assigning this authority will outline specific conditions and guidelines which will be the limits for acting on the principal’s behalf. Outside of these guidelines, the agent will have no legal authority to do anything on the principal’s behalf.

power of attorney typesDurable Power Of Attorney

When signing a durable power of attorney form, the agent becomes active as soon as you sign the form and continues after you become incapacitated. 

The agent will only lose this authority upon death or until you revoke it in writing. If you decide to revoke this assignment in writing, then you will want to do so before becoming incapacitated. 

power of attorney typesSpringing Power Of Attorney

The springing attorney is an assignment that springs into authority the moment you become incapacitated. The key with this arrangement is to define “Incapacitated:

This assignment is in effect until the death of the principal. This assignment cannot be revoked.

A Quick Guide To Incapacitation

power of attorney typesThis can be divided into 2 types: legal incapacitation or medical incapacitation. Being considered incapacitated can be the catalyst for ending or beginning the assignment of the power of attorney. 

Legally incapacitated

This could mean an individual is incarcerated. Also if someone has been professionally evaluated to be mentally incompetent, than this could be considered incapacitated for purposes of effecting the assignment of a power of attorney. 

Medically incapacitated

This would mean someone has an illness that has led them to be unable to perform tasks on their own. This would be documented by a medical professional to be officially considered in affecting the assignment of the power of attorney. 

Now that we have gone over the 4 types of power of attorneys lets cover some extremely important factors for using this option.

Picking a Power Of Attorney: What You Didn't Know You Didn't Know

When do I use the general power of attorney?

This would be ideal for you to delegate all of your administrative life to someone else while you focus on something else. 

The Agent can be delegated specific/broad authority. As ‘specific’ example: if you are having a difficult divorce process that requires you to get court ordered life insurance, then you can have your agent specifically designated to handle your divorce for you. This way you can focus on other things.

As a ‘broad’ example: maybe you don’t want to deal with spending time paying bills and balancing a checkbook while you spend your time enjoying your retirement.

Maybe you are deployed in the military and you need someone to hold your life together until you get back but you don’t have a spouse so you need  an agent to act for you. 

power of attorney typesWhen would I use a limited power of attorney?

This would be ideal for assigning one agent to do one thing. For example you are going to be travelling for a few years out of the country and you want someone to have access to managing your properties on your behalf  for set period of time.

When would I use a durable power of attorney?

You would set this up when you feel like your health is deteriorating and you are not sure if you are of sound mind and body. You are concerned that you are not handling your affairs and you just want to have someone help you.

This way as your condition progresses, you can oversee things and train the agent to handle things correctly for you. 

When would I use a springing power of attorney?

This would be an option when you don’t want an agent to have to do anything now. Only to step in and handle things for you should you become hurt or ill.

This would be the person that would be your health proxy but also be able to manage all of your other affairs for you. 

Here's What Really Matters When Revoking Power Of Attorney

power of attorney typesConsider this general list of reasons that are common in changing or revoking a power of attorney: 

  • The agent is not trustworthy
  • You feel like someone else would make better qualified to make decisions
  • The agent is no longer qualified due to health reasons or incarceration
  • The agent no longer wishes to have this assignment
  • You’re unable to communicate with the agent
  • The agent is deceased and you need to appoint a replacement

Is Having Multiple Power Of Attorneys Worthless?

If you appoint multiple power of attorneys, then important matters can be delayed from being finalized when multiple signatures are needed to move forward. A lot of times people will want to be fair.

Having multiple agents would  help you to enable decision making by committee. However some principals understand that one is all you need. Especially in financial matters because one power of attorney can block resources from the others. 

Abuse of the assignment

Once you appoint someone in writing, it is difficult to prove if they acted unlawfully. Even in  a limited power of attorney situation there will be a challenge in obtaining a judgement and even more difficulty in recovering any losses.

The best thing to do is revoke the assignment as quickly as possible. 


This is the saving grace for the principal. As long as you act quickly before being considered incapacitated, then you should.

What You Need To Know About The Power Of Attorney Before You Assign One


The agent has the right to do almost anything. This individual will have unblocked access to everything in your life .There will be no need to consult you for anything for any reason. 


Since choosing the right agent to have full access to everything in your life is a major decision, take it as slowly as possible. Chances are you already have someone in mind.

Does this person have a track record of being responsible? In knowing this person, have you seen difficult situations managed in a way that you agree with?

Sometimes people who request to be your agent will turn you down. Or, If you don’t feel like anyone you know fits your standards as an agent for you there is still a perfect solution.

Would it be silly to interview different estate law/elder law attorneys and see if they would handle everything for you? They are certainly qualified and capable.

About the author

Victor Vega has over a decade of experience in working with individuals regarding their personal finances after starting in 2007 at Merrill Lynch as a financial advisor. I started Garden Mutual in 2020 so that you could have access to a life insurance agent that puts your interests first! As an independent agent, I work with over 10 carriers. This means that my loyalty is to my customer and not any one particular insurance company . Let me provide you with objective information that you can use to pick the best life insurance policy for yourself today.  We are always looking to improve ourselves for your benefit!

If there are any problems with the information in this article would it be ridiculous to let us know in the comment section below?

Email me at info@gardenmutual.com or call me at 908-388-4916.

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