by Michael F. Callahan

A general power of attorney is an effective tool if you will be out of the country and need someone to handle certain matters, or when you are physically or mentally incapable of managing your affairs. A general POA is often included in an estate plan to make sure someone can handle your financial matters if you become unable to do so.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney (POA) is a document that is used to appoint a person or institution to manage your affairs if you become unable to do so. The person or institution you appoint is called your agent or attorney-in-fact.


You can grant broad powers to your agent.  You can give your agent any power that you have to make financial decisions, including the power to handle financial and business transactions, buy life insurance, settle claims, operate business interests, make gifts, and employ professional help.

Competency to Sign a Power of attorney.

You must be mentally competent at the time you execute your POA in order for it to be effective.  If you think your mental capability may be questioned, have a doctor verify it in writing.  Do not delay making a POA until your competency is questionable.

Make Sure Your Power of Attorney is Durable.

Be sure that your POA is “durable”.  This means that it contains language specifying that your appointment of an agent is still valid if you become incapacitated. That’s when you want your agent to act on your behalf.  But you have to state so specifically in your POA or your agent’s power will lapse just when he or she is needed.

Selecting an Agent.

Your POA is only as good as the person you select as agent.  Trust is a key factor when choosing an agent for your power of attorney. Whether the agent selected is a friend, relative, organization, or attorney, you need someone who will look out for your best interests, respect your wishes, act with care, keep good records and won’t abuse the powers granted to him or her.

Naming a Successor Agent.

Have a backup. Agents can fall ill, be injured, or otherwise be unable to serve when the time comes. A successor agent takes over power of attorney duties from the original agent, if needed.

Executing Your Power of Attorney.

You must sign and notarize the original POA document.  Banks and other businesses may refuse to transact with your agent on your behalf unless they receive a certified copy of the POA.

Revoking Your Power of Attorney.

You can revoke a POA at any time. Simply notify your agent in writing and retrieve all copies of your POA. Notify any financial institutions you deal with that your agent’s power of attorney has been revoked.


Illness, injury, old age, or daily life commitments happen to everyone. The time will come when you will need a Power of Attorney.  A POA should be included in every estate plan. That is why you should understand what a power of attorney is and how it can assist in taking care of your business, even when you can’t.  Contact us if you have questions or want to give someone your Power of Attorney.