General Power of Attorney

A ‘general power of attorney’ is virtually unlimited in scope. It allows your attorney to act as your authorized legal representative in relation to the whole cross-section of your legal and financial affairs, until such time as that authorization is terminated. In other words, your attorney will have full legal authority to make decisions and take actions on your behalf, as if you were taking them yourself. This could, for example, include signing letters and checks, executing contracts, etc.

While you cannot generally limit the scope of the power conferred under a general power of attorney, there are nonetheless some presumed limits to the attorney’s authority. For example, your attorney is not normally permitted to assume any position or office that you might hold, such as the position of employee, company director, trustee, executor or indeed many others. Furthermore, an attorney cannot execute a will on your behalf (or amend an existing one), take action concerning your marriage or delegate his or her authorization under your power of attorney to a third party, unless expressly authorized to do so in the power of attorney document. An attorney is also prevented from making gifts of your assets, other than small gifts that you yourself might have been expected to make having regard to the size of your estate.

It’s important to bear in mind that you will remain personally liable for the actions of your attorney, so you should grant authorization only to someone you trust implicitly.

A general power of attorney automatically comes to an end if you become mentally incapacitated, bankrupt or die. Similarly, it may also come to an end if your attorney becomes mentally incapacitated, bankrupt or dies. You also have the power to revoke a general power of attorney at any time by completing and sending a notice of revocation. We’ll discuss more on revocation later.

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