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.

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.

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.

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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.

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What Should Be in a Power of Attorney?

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Can the Power of Attorney Add Signers to Bank Accounts?

You may use a financial power of attorney to grant a trusted agent authority to act in your place in financial matters. The terms of this legal document describe the extent of the authority it confers. While a general form would allow your agent to add signatories to your bank accounts, you can tailor the authority as you wish.

Can There Be More Than One Power of Attorney?

When you want to give someone authority to make decisions in your place, a power of attorney is one way to proceed. This legal document gives one person, called the agent, the power to act for another person, called the principal. In the document, you describe the scope of authority you are granting your agent. Powers of attorney are intended to benefit the principal making them, so generally you are free to create as many as suit your needs.

What Is Needed for the Power of Attorney When a Spouse is Incapacitated?

Without proper planning, incapacity can lead to confusion as to the wishes of an incapacitated spouse. For that reason, powers of attorney are drafted to avoid making the wrong decisions on both health care and financial matters after a spouse becomes incapacitated. However, a POA must be executed while the individual has capacity. Families often prefer a POA over the burdensome and costly alternative of petitioning the court to appoint a conservator. Spouses are generally favored in the granting of both conservatorships and guardianships.

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