Power of Attorney Rules in California

By River Braun, J.D.

Power of Attorney Rules in California

By River Braun, J.D.

A power of attorney (POA) is a document that enables you to assign authority to another to act on your behalf. As the principal, you choose a trusted person to be your agent or attorney-in-fact who can then perform any actions you want them to perform. Such legal documents are governed by the California Probate Code, sections 4000-4545.

Man in suit with clients in office

Valid POAs in California

Each state has its own rules when it comes to a POA. California recognizes five types: general, durable, springing, limited, and medical.


A general POA allows your agent to act on your behalf on all financial matters. It lasts until you become incapacitated. For example, if you have granted your friend Candace the power to manage your finances, her authority will end once you become legally incapacitated.


Having durable authority confers the same oversight as that in a general POA, even if you as the principal become incapacitated. So, in the example above, Candace would still be able to manage your finances, even if you become incapacitated for any reason.


A springing power of attorney is similar to that of general authority, but only becomes effective in the event that you do become incapacitated. In this case, your friend Candace can legally manage your finances only if you become incapacitated.


Having limited power allows you to limit the authority you confer on your agent. It expires when the transaction is complete or a specific time frame is reached. For example, if you are away on an extended vacation or out of the country for work, you might grant your friend the authority to sell your home in your absence. He will be able to sign your name, negotiate terms, and handle the financial aspects of the transaction. Once your home is sold, your friend's authority ends and the power of attorney expires.


A medical POA allows you to assign an agent to make healthcare decisions for you, in the event you cannot make them on your own.

Requirements for Creating a POA in California

Forms can be found online. They should comply with California Probate Code Section 4401 (for financial powers of attorney) and Section 4701 (for healthcare documents).

In order to be valid in California, the principal must be an adult (over the age of 18), who is legally competent to enter into a contract. You must sign any of the financial POAs (not the medical or healthcare documents), in the presence of a notary public or two witnesses. If the authority relates to a real estate transaction, you will want to sign in the presence of a notary so that the document can be recorded. Medical powers of attorney must be signed in the presence of two witnesses.



Modification or Revocation

You can modify or revoke it at any time simply by creating a new document. However, third parties that are unaware of the modification or revocation can still rely on the old document. For example, if you had previously named Tom as your agent to sell your property, but later revoked his authority and named Jeremy as your agent, Tom could still sell your home if he was unaware that you revoked his authority. In a case like that, you are bound to what Tom did, but can sue him for any damages he causes as a result of misusing the revoked document.

Powers of attorney are important legal documents that every adult should consider. If you are ready to draft yours, first consider who you would like to be your agent, and then ensure that they agree to take on the responsibility. After that, be sure to properly draft and execute your POA document based on your state laws.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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