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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Power of Attorney Rights

The power of attorney doesn't so much grant rights as powers. Under a power of attorney arrangement, one person -- known as the principal -- grants an agent the power to perform legal acts on his behalf. This grant of authority may be broad or narrow, and it may be of temporary or indefinite duration. A power of attorney must be in writing and signed by the principal to be valid.

How Long is a Power of Attorney Valid?

Not all powers of attorney are created equal. Many are created as general, durable powers of attorney that are intended to last the lifetime of the principal, or person granting the power of attorney. Others are made out of necessity when the principal can’t be in two places at the same time: In this case his attorney-in-fact, or agent appointed by the power of attorney, must act for him. These powers of attorney are often intended to be temporary in nature. Other factors or actions also determine how long the granted powers last.

How Effective Is Power of Attorney After Death?

A power of attorney is a legal document in which one person, known as the principal, appoints another, known as an attorney-in-fact, to sign documents and perform acts on his behalf. The powers granted to an attorney-in-fact under a power of attorney terminate upon the death of the principal, but in some states, that termination may be conditioned upon actual knowledge and not affect everyone at the moment of death.

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