Are powers of attorney different from state to state?

A fellow caregiver asked...

Are powers of attorney all state-specific?

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

In a word: yes.

There are two kinds of powers of attorney -- one deputizing a person to handle financial matters on his or her behalf, the other relating to supervising or specifying the kind of medical care to be received.

Requirements for both types are controlled by specific state laws -- and those laws differ in more ways than you can imagine, with nuances in everything from whether witnesses are required to sign, whether the power of attorney loses its power if a conservator is appointed, how and whether the agent appointed can be related to the person for whom he or she is acting.

While this bit of information may prompt you to want to get a power of attorney for every state in the union just in case, that plan would not be prudent. Most state laws also provide that finalizing a power of attorney revokes, or cancels, all those made before it. So the newest document generally controls. But as a failsafe, most state laws also provide that a valid document in one state will be recognized and honored in another.