What are powers of attorney?Contact Amy button

A power of attorney is a binding, legal document that gives another person the authority to act on your behalf during your lifetime. When you give someone the ability to act for you, you are referred to as the principal. The person given the authority is known as your agent or attorney-in-fact.

What is conveyed through powers of attorney?

Powers of attorney can involve a wide variety of life and legal issues. Some of the most common are: real estate, personal property, banking, business, insurance, gifting, fiduciary matters, claims and litigation, family maintenance, military service benefits, records, reports and statements. Powers of attorney can be limited when they are given.

How can powers of attorney impact military benefits?

As one example, an agent under a power of attorney can assist a service member or veteran apply for military benefits by completing paperwork and following up on the status of an application.

Are there different types of powers of attorney? 

The most common type is known as the statutory short-form power of attorney. In addition, Minnesota recognizes these forms: durable power of attorney, limited power of attorney, and springing powers of attorney.

To whom should I grant my power of attorney?

Aside from selecting a competent adult, no legal requirements govern who may serve. It is critical that you choose someone who has the ability and time to make the best decisions on your behalf, and the integrity to act only in your best interests when exercising this authority.

Are powers of attorney valid in other states?

Generally, if the power of attorney is valid in Minnesota, other states will recognize and honor it. It is possible that a state would refuse to accept it, however, based on the circumstance and the other state’s laws or policies.

Do you need a lawyer to get a power of attorney?

No, but a lawyer can explain the difference between various types of powers of attorney. A thorough lawyer also will ensure that you are fully advised of the powers available, your agent’s obligations to you, and any risks that may not be obvious.

Can a family member override a power of attorney?

Generally, no. That is one of the main reasons for granting a power of attorney to someone you trust. Other people can’t interfere with or override it.

What happens to the power of attorney when a person dies?

The power of attorney expires


Myths about powers of attorney

My agent can handle matters for me after I die

  • An agent can act under a power of attorney only during the principal’s lifetime. Authority granted by a power of attorney dies with the person who granted it. 
  • After you die, your personal representative or trustee has legal authority to act on behalf of your estate. Of course, you may name the same person to act in these roles as well as to be your agent under a power of attorney.

My agent can act for me only if I become incapacitated or incompetent

  • Powers of attorney are important documents in planning for incapacity. But under almost all powers of attorney, the authority that the principal gives the agent to act on his or her behalf is immediate. 
  • An unscrupulous agent may take action without your permission or knowledge.
  • Minnesota law provides for springing powers of attorney. Such powers “spring” into effect only when the principal becomes incapacitated or incompetent. While this may seem like a good option, many businesses and financial institutions will not accept springing powers of attorney. That means your agent would not be able to act on your behalf.