Durable Power of Attorney in Massachusetts

By Tom Streissguth

A durable power of attorney, or POA, allows an agent to act on behalf of a principal — the person granting the power — even after the principal suffers an incapacitating illness. Massachusetts, like other states, allows individuals of sound mind to create a durable power of attorney, which can help safeguard the interests of the principal, his family and heirs.

General and Specific POA

A durable power of attorney in Massachusetts can be general or specific. In a specific POA, the agent is authorized to act only in certain capacities, which the document must describe in detail. A general power of attorney grants broader powers to the agent, allowing him to act in a variety of matters, from financial decisions to health care to the preparation and execution of a will.

Effective Date

A durable power of attorney in Massachusetts can take effect immediately on signing by the principal; such a POA is also known as a "present" power of attorney. Alternatively, the document can take effect at a later time if and when the principal suffers an incapacitating illness or injury. A durable power of attorney that goes into effect on a specific event is also known as a "springing" power of attorney.

Ready to appoint a power of attorney? Get Started Now

Document Wording

According to Massachusetts law, the durable power of attorney must contain the phrase “This power of attorney shall not be affected by subsequent disability or incapacity of the principal, or lapse of time,” or similar language indicating that in the event of disability, the authority granted in the document remains valid. A durable power of attorney may contain an expiration date, beyond which it lapses. It also may be revoked as long as the principal is not incapacitated. if the principal is incapacitated, a legal guardian would have the power to revoke the document. The agent is at all times answerable to a court-appointed legal guardian or fiduciary.


Without a valid, durable power of attorney in place, the Massachusetts Probate Court will have legal authority over the affairs of an individual who is incapacitated. The court will appoint a guardian to make decisions, sign documents and handle the individual's health, business and family decisions, and take charge of the property and assets. A court-appointed guardianship means additional expense and legal complications for the principal and his family, as well as uncertainty over the outcome of any probate matters.

Ready to appoint a power of attorney? Get Started Now
Do I Have to File a Will Through Probate?


Related articles

Can a POA Change a Will?

A power of attorney allows a person, referred to as an agent or attorney at law, to act on behalf of another person, the principal. The authority is granted to the agent upon the execution of a power of attorney document that is signed by the principal. Although an agent can make important decisions and perform certain actions for the principal, the agent cannot alter a will, a document consisting of the principal's directions for his estate after his death.

Can an Incompetent Person Get a Divorce in Texas?

An incompetent person cannot understand or make decisions about issues related to a divorce, such as property division, child custody and child support, without the assistance of someone to protect his interests. Since one of the grounds for divorce in Texas is the commitment of a spouse to a mental hospital for more than three years, the law provides a mechanism for ensuring a guardian attends the divorce hearings, participates in settlement discussions and signs documents on behalf of the incapacitated person or ward.

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.

Related articles

Legal Guardianship in Alabama

A legal guardianship in Alabama is a court proceeding used to appoint someone to be responsible for the personal ...

The Difference in Probate & Family Court Guardianship

Probate court handles issues relating to estate administration and the distribution of assets after death. Under ...

What to Do With a Will After a Death

Wills provide written documentation of the will maker's -- also called testator -- final wishes. Upon the death of the ...

Difference Between the Durable and Regular Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a means by which by one person, called a principal, authorizes another person, called an ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED