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What’s the Difference Between a General Power of Attorney and a Specific Power of Attorney

Power Of Attorney

Close up of typewriter and Power of attorney

What’s the difference between a general and a specific power of attorney?  A general power of attorney authorizes the agent to do pretty much anything to manage the principal’s financial affairs.  On the other hand, a specific power of attorney is a prepared at a financial institution (like a bank) and authorizes the agent to manage the principal’s financial affairs there only.

Specific Power of Attorney

For example, if the principal goes to their bank and signs a power of attorney that the bank gives him or her – that document – a specific power of attorney – will only be effective for that one bank.  If the agent needs to act at a second bank the power of attorney signed at the first bank won’t be valid.  They will need a power of attorney at that second bank in order to act on behalf of the principal.

General Power of Attorney

If, on the other hand, the principal goes to an attorney and prepares a general power of attorney document then the agent can use the document at any banks where the principal has accounts and does business.

The Difference Between Them

It is very important that you understand this distinction.  This issue can cause expensive, time consuming situations if not managed properly.  If your loved one already has a power of attorney then make sure it authorizes you to manage all of their financial affairs.  If it is a specific power of attorney and you rely on that you may find yourself without the proper tool.  Pay careful attention in this situation.

The power of attorney is a very important document that gives tremendous power to the agent.  It allows for a somewhat seamless transition of power from the principal to the agent when needed.  Make sure your loved one has what they need. You can – and probably always should – discuss this issue with an elder law attorney.  A good power of attorney costs a little.  Not having one when you need it will probably cost a lot.

Learn more about this topic and many others in my course 80/20 Senior Care.  Click the 80/20 Senior Care link at the top of the page to check it out.  It is possible to get great care and save a lot of money.  You just need to know where to look and what to do. 80/20 Senior Care will give you that information.


  1. Marilyn says:

    What is Durable power of Attorney then?

    • Casey Price says:

      Thanks so much for asking this question! A durable power of attorney is a power of attorney that will remain in effect even after the principal (the subject of the power of attorney) becomes incapacitated. It kind of seems silly – isn’t that what a power of attorney is supposed to be for? But there was a time – back before durability provisions were enacted – when the power of attorney would stop working if someone became mentally incapacitated and unable to manage his or her own affairs. These days almost all power of attorney documents contain a durability provision making them durable. If the document ins’t called a “durable power of attorney” there is probably still a durability provision in the document. I will do a podcast episode in the very near future explaining this in greater detail.

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