Can POA Supercede Spousal Rights?

by Teo Spengler

A power of attorney, or POA, is a legal document you create to appoint a trusted individual to act for you, generally in financial or medical matters. Your power of attorney cannot authorize anyone to act for your spouse, nor does your spouse have the right to terminate or alter your power of attorney.

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Medical Power of Attorney

While it can be difficult to contemplate end-of-life decisions during a period of health and vigor, many people become incapacitated as they age. One way to prepare is to draft a power of attorney for medical decisions, termed a health care directive in some states. This document gives the person you name the right to make your health care decisions when you cannot make them for yourself. Your spouse has no automatic right to power-of-attorney status; every adult can choose her own health care agent.

Financial Power of Attorney

Financial powers of attorney can confer broad authority, giving your agent power to manage your finances if you are incapacitated. They can also be narrowly drawn, authorizing someone to do just one act for you, like selling your car. In either case, your agent's authority is limited to managing your assets and does not spill over to your spouse's half of the marital holdings, let alone his separate property. Neither spouse has the legal right to manage the other spouse's financial affairs.