Power of Attorney Between a Husband & Wife

By Marie Murdock

A power of attorney is a legal document that allows one person, known as the attorney-in-fact, to act in another person’s place. Powers granted under a power of attorney may be many and carry great authority, or they may be few and very limited. Although any trusted friend or family member may be appointed as attorney-in-fact, the logical choice is a spouse.


A wife may have a job that is so demanding that she finds it difficult to arrange her time to take care of personal business. One solution to this dilemma is for her to appoint her husband to act as her attorney-in-fact under a power of attorney to execute any and all documents necessary to transact family or personal business. A general power of attorney would grant her husband practically unlimited signing authority on her behalf, subject only to the provisions of the power of attorney and the ability of the person relying on the power of attorney to accept it.


One benefit arising from joint powers of attorney between husbands and wives is the ability of one spouse to act on behalf of the other in the event of disability or mental incompetence. Powers of attorney are often prepared as a part of estate planning and are made durable so that if a husband appoints his wife as attorney-in-fact while he is competent and mentally aware, then upon his later disability or mental incompetence, his wife may execute documents for him without the necessity of a court action appointing her as his guardian or conservator.

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Powers of attorney are frequently made to wives whose husbands are active-duty military and deployed to other countries. Depending on the level of trust between a husband and wife, the powers granted to the wife while the husband is away may be broad or they may be limited only to those actions he asks her to take while he is away. Military attorneys are generally available to advise military personnel regarding powers of attorney and to prepare whatever type may be desired.


A power of attorney given by one spouse to another may be revoked at any time in writing by the principal, the person giving it, provided she has the mental capacity to do so. A wife may choose to revoke a power of attorney given to her husband if she begins to lose faith or trust in him or if he has abused his authority under the document, acting in ways that she did not intend. Also, in some states, a divorce between the parties automatically revokes a power of attorney from one spouse to another. In the event of a revocation or termination, it may be necessary to notify banks, financial institutions and other businesses of the revocation to prevent its further use.

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Types of Power of Attorney for Elderly Family Members


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Power of Attorney Obligations

A person who creates a power of attorney, known as the principal, typically appoints someone she fully and completely trusts to act as her agent, or attorney-in-fact. The authority granted under a power of attorney often allows the agent to perform actions that, absent a power of attorney, only the principal herself can perform. Therefore, the agent has a fiduciary responsibility to act for the benefit of and in the best interest of the principal.

Difference of Power of Attorney & Executor of Will

The difference between an attorney-in-fact appointed to act under a power of attorney and an executor appointed to act under a last will and testament is literally the difference between life and death. The principal, or maker of a power of attorney, appoints an attorney-in-fact to handle her affairs during her lifetime. The maker of a will, or testatrix, however, designates an executor to handle her affairs after death.

How to Activate a Power of Attorney

A power of attorney allows a person to sign legal documents and act on your behalf in transactions that you would ordinarily only be able to handle yourself. Those transactions may be very broad in nature, allowing that person to step into your shoes to handle all your affairs, or they may be very specific, only allowing that person to perform specified transactions that, for various reasons, you may be unavailable to perform yourself.

Power of Attorney

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