What is the Difference Between a General and a Limited Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a grant of authority to someone else to act on your behalf. For example, if you are selling a house and you need to be away at the time of the closing, you can grant someone power of attorney to sign the papers on your behalf during the sale. Power of attorneys have many uses, but one of the most common is to name someone to act for you if you become seriously ill or incapacitated and are not able to make decisions for yourself or manage your own affairs. The creation of a power of attorney is an important part of estate planning and, if you wish to have a power of attorney in effect in case you become ill, you will need to create a durable power of attorney with the help of an experienced lawyer.

The Difference Between a Limited and General Power of Attorney

When you create a power of attorney, it is not a one-size-fits-all situation. You can customize the power of attorney to grant only the level of power that you wish to vest in someone else. If you want someone to be able to just sign a specific contract or document for you, for example, then you can specify that when you create a limited power of attorney. If, on the other hand, you want someone to have total control over your assets, financial decisions and even your healthcare choices, you can specify that by creating a general power of attorney.

Depending upon the type of power of attorney you create, the grant of authority can go by different names. For example, if you want to give someone else control over only specific things or only a narrow array of tasks or assets, then you would create a limited power of attorney. You’d need to be very clear about exactly what authority you were granting to the person who you named to act on your behalf. Your attorney could help you to do this in a way that makes the power-of-attorney limits clear so that there is no question over what power you granted to your agent.

If, on the other hand, you want to give someone more general control to make decisions on your behalf and manage your assets, then you would create a general power of attorney. This can be a much broader transfer of authority and it is very important that you choose someone that you trust to grant this authority to. You’ll also need to make clear that you are giving general authority to the named person, and your attorney will assist you in creating a general power of attorney document.