What are the key differences between a durable and limited POA?

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 24, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

What are the key differences between a durable and limited power of attorney?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com 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.

The qualifiers used to describe these powers of attorney have to do with the conditions under which they take effect and what kind of powers the named agent is given.

A "durable" power of attorney remains effective even if the person who created it becomes legally incapacitated"”that is, it endures. In fact, that is the very reason many people choose to make a durable power of attorney: They want to be sure someone else will be able to direct their medical care or handle their finances if they become unable to do so.

Beyond that, powers of attorney are also often defined as "general" or "limited." A general power of attorney gives the agent full discretion to act on behalf of another person, also called the principal"”as long as the agent acts in that person's best interests. A limited power of attorney, also called a "special" power of attorney, is more specific"”and spells out precisely what actions the agent may take. For example, a limited power of attorney may empower an agent to manage, rent, or sell a specific piece of real estate. That agent would not be able to take other actions, such as investing money in the stock market or managing retirement accounts on the principal's behalf.

To go back to your question and underscore how flummoxing legal jargon can be: It is possible to have a limited durable power of attorney"”one that would remain in effect after the principal was incapacitated, but limit the agent's duties to those specified in the document.

Community Answers

Francineg answered...

A limited power of attorney is for a specified act. For example ny client will usually give me one to sign their documents during a real estate closing. Then it ends. A durable power of attorney continues and usually takes effect upon incapacitation. I do these as part of my client's estate plan.