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Durable Power of Attorney vs. General Power of Attorney - What’s the Difference?

What is the difference between a general power of attorney and a durable power of attorney? Trust & Will explains what you need to know.

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Patrick Hicks, @PatrickHicks

Head of Legal, Trust & Will

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Perhaps you’re beginning to take care of your aging parents, and you’re wanting to support them in a better capacity. Estate planning is a good opportunity to bring up a discussion about appointing you as their agent, for which the legal term is Power of Attorney (POA).

A POA is a powerful estate planning tool, and there are a few different categories of powers, used in difference scenarios. Two types to consider are General Power of Attorney and Durable Power of Attorney. They’re equally important in the legal authority field, but there’s one key difference between them. So what is the difference between a General Power of Attorney and a Durable Power of Attorney? Keep reading to find out which option might be best for you and your family.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney?

If you’re appointed as the agent through a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA), you’ll be given legal authority to act on your parents’ behalf. You’ll have agency to care for them even if they become suddenly incapacitated, until the day they pass away.

Here are some example tasks that you might find yourself executing as a DPOA:

  • Act in your parents’ behalf on any matter

  • Sign their legal documents

  • Advise on any healthcare decisions

  • Make financial and business decisions

We provide more detailed information on what it means to be a DPOA in our guide, including answers to commonly asked questions. Be sure to check it out to learn more.

What is a General Power of Attorney?

A General Power of Attorney (GPOA) is a similar legal document that allows your parents to appoint you as their agent. As a GPOA, your duties will end if your parents ever became incapacitated. This means that your role is to support them under their general guidance or supervision, as long as they are still able to make their own decisions.

Here are some examples of the tasks that you might carry out for your parents as their GPOA:

  • Purchase insurance policies

  • Hire professionals, including medical help

  • Manage financial and real estate transactions

  • Make gifts out of a Trust

  • Operate a business

  • Settle any outstanding financial or legal claims

Fore more information, check out our Understanding Power of Attorney guide. 

What is the Difference Between a General Power of Attorney and a Durable Power of Attorney?

Here, it’s very important to pay attention to the difference between a General Power of Attorney and a Durable Power of Attorney. The key differentiation between DPOA vs POA is simple: incapacitation.

As a General POA, your agency ends the moment your parents become incapacitated. This means that if they suddenly become unable to make decisions for themselves, you will no longer be able to make important decisions for them. Incapacitation occurs in cases such as an accident, severe medical condition, or mental illness. 

As a Durable POA, your legal agency remains intact until your parents pass away, or unless they revoke your power. This means that as their agent, you’ll still be able to make important decisions if or when they become unable to do so themselves.

Does a Power of Attorney Have to be Filed with the Court?

Generally, a POA does not have to be filed with the court system. Rather, your Power of Attorney is a document you include with your other estate planning documents. You’ll want to keep this safe and secured, such as through your password-protected estate planning platform. 

If you plan on executing any real estate transactions, you’ll want to find out through your County Clerk and Land Title offices if they require your parents to file their Power of Attorney. If so, the document will need to be notarized. 

Setting Up Your DPOA vs POA

Whether you decide to set up a DPOA vs POA is up to you and your family. Ultimately, your parents will be responsible for setting up an estate plan that includes a DPOA or POA document that names you as their agent.

You’ll want to have an honest conversation with them about the difference between the two options, and which is the most appropriate. Some key questions to ask are, “in what capacity do you want me to be able to help you,” and, “if you were to suddenly become incapacitated, do you want for me to be able to continue making decisions on your behalf?” 

This may be an emotional and sometimes unpleasant conversation to have, but an important one nonetheless. It may be helpful to refer them to our guide, What is Power of Attorney. It’s a 10-minute read that’ll give them a break-down on the different types of POAs and important things to know, which will help them make their decision. 

Once they’re ready, they’ll need to establish or update their Estate Plan so that they can have peace of mind. You’ll have the agency to support them when needed, and you’ll be able to step up to the plate in case anything unexpected were to happen.

At Trust & Will, we believe in making the process of estate planning informative, accessible, and seamless. In case your parents don’t have an estate plan yet, or are hesitant to make any changes because their last experience was laborious, know that our platform makes it easy to set up a Power of Attorney from the comfort of their home.

Is there a question here we didn’t answer? Reach out to us today or Chat with a live member support representative!

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