You have identified the need for a Power of Attorney (POA). The next question to answer is which type is better suited to accomplish your purpose — general or special. To answer this, you need to understand the purpose of a Power of Attorney.
A Power of Attorney is a document executed by one person, known as the grantor, designating another person, known as an attorney-in-fact, to act on his behalf. While there is no law requiring an organization or business to accept a Power of Attorney, most will. There are important differences between a Special and General Power of Attorney, so make sure you understand which one better fits your needs.
A General Power of Attorney allows the attorney-in-fact to do anything that the grantor can do. Once you give someone this power, that person would have the legal authority to sell your car or house, to close your bank accounts, to open credit cards in your name, just to name a few. Considering the extremely broad scope of a General Power of Attorney, it is very important to choose carefully to whom you give that power. While most clients believe they need a General Power of Attorney, it is usually not necessary. Base Legal Offices unfortunately see clients whose attorneys-in-fact misuse the power granted them under a General Power of Attorney. Such abuse often leaves the grantor in serious debt, with empty or overdrawn bank accounts, or missing property they entrusted to that person. Interestingly, some institutions, such as many banks, refuse to accept General Powers of Attorney due to the potential for misuse.
A Special Power of Attorney, on the other hand, is more specific and allows the attorney-in-fact to do only one thing on the grantor’s behalf. This type of document is usually a much more prudent choice. A Special Power of Attorney can be granted for almost any reason – to sell, buy or register a vehicle, to purchase a home, to register a child in school, or to give the agent permission to access the grantor’s bank accounts or medical records. A Special Power of Attorney is a much safer option because it gives authority only for the specific task that you designate.
What do you do if you have a Power of Attorney and you no longer need it or you no longer feel comfortable with the person who is appointed as your attorney-in-fact? First, you should destroy the Power of Attorney and any copies of it. Of course, you may not have access to the document if you’re deployed and someone back at your home station has the original. In that case, we recommend that you ask for the document back and, more importantly, that you prepare a written revocation of the Power of Attorney to end the attorney-in-fact’s legal authority. You should also mail the revocation certified, return-receipt requested to the attorney-in-fact and to any business that may be using the POA, so they are on notice that you are no longer giving this authority to the attorney-in-fact.
If you need a Power of Attorney or a revocation letter, you should contact your Base Legal Office, who can provide this service for free, or you may seek a referral to competent legal counsel from such sources as findlaw.com at your own expense.