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

Think for a moment about how many decisions you make daily. Sometimes we need help making those decisions. A general power of attorney provides a trusted friend, family member or professional with the authority to make those decisions on your behalf. However, a general power of attorney only operates while you are still coherent and mentally capable. It automatically expires upon incapacity or death. A durable power of attorney remains operational upon incapacity, although it expires upon death. Additionally, a durable power of attorney is needed to maintain your finances, home, and business while medically incapacitated, or when experiencing mental or physical decline.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney?

A durable power of attorney allows your trusted friend or family member to maintain your finances, home, and business while incapacitated. Accepting that the unexpected just might happen enables you to identify the right person to whom to entrust this decision-making – and to provide guidance for how you want these decisions made. A durable power of attorney opens the doors to discussing difficult subjects. However, the result of these conversations can be peace of mind.

When Do You Need a Durable Power of Attorney?

A durable power of attorney is necessary:

  • To prepare for a time when you might become incapacitated from an accident or sudden illness
  • To choose the person you trust to control your healthcare, family, business, and financial decisions while you are unable to manage them yourself
  • To prepare for a major medical procedure or travel adventure
  • In response to a degenerative disease diagnosis

Although anticipating these situations might be stressful, resolving how you want to handle any unexpected crises can certainly be reassuring.  Think about your family and how much better you might feel knowing that you have planned for the unexpected.A durable power of attorney can be limited to health decisions, finances, or other areas. A medical durable power of attorney merely appoints the person whom you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event of your incapacity. This is distinct from a living will or advance health directive, which lets you outline your end-of-life preferences including decisions about treatment options, medication, surgery, palliative care, and extraordinary care.

A durable power of attorney that is limited to financial decisions allows you to choose someone to pay bills, make bank deposits, collect insurance benefits, and make gifts to charity that are consistent with your prior giving patterns.

What is a General Power of Attorney?

A general power of attorney requests you to still have capacity, and therefore, it can be revoked at any time while you are able. Ordinarily a general power of attorney allows your chosen agent to act on your behalf in all matters. However, you can limit that authority in the document creating the power of attorney.

Before you begin the process of creating a general power of attorney, consider a free consultation with the attorneys at Evergreen Elder Law, where our experienced and compassionate lawyers know exactly the questions to ask to determine your needs.

A general power of attorney requires the following:

  1. Decide what kind of power of attorney you want to create. Limit decisions to business, financial, medical areas, or give general authority over all aspects of your life.
  2. Choose your agent. You can choose anyone older than 18 years of age. However, your agent cannot be your healthcare provider. Consider trust, loyalty, intelligence, experience, access to information, and geographic location when identifying your agent.
  3. Decide how much authority to give. Just how much power do you want to give to your agent: financial, medical, management? A power of attorney can limit the fields of authority, such as authorization to pay medical bills but not make medical decisions, or allow the person to manage your real estate properties, or investments.
  4. Create the power of attorney document. It’s best to work with an experienced attorney when creating a power of attorney to ensure that the scope of your authorization fits your intention, and that the agent chosen is capable of carrying out your directions.
  5. Deliver the power of attorney document. You will need to give a signed copy to the agent you have chosen, and to healthcare providers, if medical, or to the bank, if financial.

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

To review, it’s important to choose a power of attorney who suits your needs and fits into your plans. Here is a handy chart to help you decide which is the right document for you.

Durable Power of Attorney General Power of Attorney
Remains in effect upon incapacity Expires upon incapacity
Expires upon death Expires upon death
Choice of agent Choice of agent
Can limit decision-making Can limit decision-making

Contact a Spokane power of attorney lawyer today to discuss how you might be best served by creating a power of attorney document, either general or durable, as part of a comprehensive estate plan. A power of attorney is only one of several documents that together can anticipate preserving and distributing your estate, make important medical decisions in the event of your incapacity, and ensure that your family is supported and protected in the future. Contact the experienced and compassionate lawyers at Evergreen Elder Law today to schedule a free consultation.


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The Evergreen Elder Law Team

Evergreen Elder Law is committed to helping you create comprehensive legal, financial, and physical security for you and your loved ones. Serving the Spokane, Tri Cities and Coeur d’Alene regions, we have the knowledge, compassion and professionalism to guide you in planning for the future, giving you peace of mind as you or a loved one makes important decisions for your family and future.

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