What is a power of attorney? What is a power of attorney?

What is a power of attorney?

A power of attorney is a formidable document granting significant privileges and responsibilities. It is essential to comprehend its intricacies, particularly for businesses where stakes can be considerably high. In this guide, we will explore the depths of a power of attorney and its implications for businesses.

How does a power of attorney work for businesses?

In the realm of business, a power of attorney (POA) can be invaluable. It bestows on an individual, often referred to as the “agent,” the authority to act on behalf of another person, typically the “principal.” This delegation might include financial matters, operational tasks, or other business-related activities.

Several reasons necessitate such a move

  • Absence: Business owners might be traveling or indisposed and need someone to handle specific tasks during their absence.
  • Expertise: Sometimes, specific tasks require specialized knowledge, and an external expert might be appointed via a power of attorney.
  • Health: A sudden ailment or incapacity may lead an owner to designate someone to make business decisions.

Types of power of attorney for businesses

While the underlying concept of a power of attorney remains consistent, there are different types tailored for specific needs.

  • General power of attorney: Grants broad powers to the agent to act on behalf of the principal in various matters, including business, financial, and personal affairs.
  • Limited or special power of attorney: As the name suggests, this type confines the agent’s authority to specific tasks, such as managing a particular business project or financial transaction.
  • Durable power of attorney: This type remains in effect even if the principal becomes incapacitated. It’s essential for business owners to ensure uninterrupted operations.
  • Springing power of attorney: This POA “springs” into effect under certain conditions, most commonly when the principal becomes incapacitated.

Understanding the nuances of each type is crucial to ensure that the chosen POA aligns with the intended business objectives.

Things you can do with a power of attorney

It’s equally vital for businesses to understand that a power of attorney isn’t irrevocable. Circumstances change, and the need for an agent might become redundant or evolve. The principal has the right to revoke a POA at any time, given that they are mentally competent. This revocation should ideally be in writing and distributed to the agent and third parties like banks or vendors with whom the agent interacted. Also, if the POA was recorded at a public office (like real estate transactions), the revocation should be recorded there too. The scope of a POA in business is vast and diverse.

  • Financial transactions: A POA can grant the agent permission to handle banking, pay bills, manage investments, or even procure loans.
  • Operational decisions: An agent might be vested with the power to hire or fire employees, enter into contracts, or purchase properties.
  • Legal engagements: Representing the principal in legal matters, attending court hearings, or engaging in settlement talks.
  • Access to documents: An agent might gain access to essential business documents, accounts, or safety deposit boxes.

How to set up a power of attorney

Setting up a POA for your business involves a structured procedure.

  1. Determine the scope: Clearly outline the powers you want to grant. For example, is it limited to a particular task or general management?
  2. Select a reliable agent: This is paramount. Ensure your agent is trustworthy, competent, and understands the business well.
  3. Draft the document: Engage legal counsel to draft the POA, ensuring it adheres to state requirements and encapsulates all necessary details.
  4. Notarize and witness: Most states require the POA to be notarized. Additionally, having witnesses can lend more authenticity.
  5. File with relevant authorities: Some types of POA might need to be filed with specific agencies or offices.

It’s worth noting that the requirements and validity of a power of attorney can vary from one state to another. Certain states may have mandatory clauses or specific language that needs to be present in the document. Others might have unique witnessing or notarization requirements. Engaging with local legal counsel can provide clarity on state-specific nuances, ensuring the POA is both valid and enforceable.

How much does it cost to get a power of attorney?

The cost of a power of attorney can vary based on several factors.

  • Legal counsel: If drafted by an attorney, fees can range from $100 to $500, depending on complexity.
  • DIY templates: Online platforms offer templates for as low as $25.
  • Notary fees: Notarization might cost between $5 to $20.
  • Filing fees: Depending on the type of POA and jurisdiction, there might be associated filing fees.

How long does it take to get a power of attorney?

The duration to secure a power of attorney is contingent on the process chosen.

  • Legal counsel: This might take a few days to weeks, depending on the complexity of the document.
  • Online platforms: Instantaneous to a few days.
  • Filing and notarization: Add an additional day or two for these processes.

Risks and benefits of granting a power of attorney


  • Flexibility: Enables businesses to continue operations in the principal’s absence.
  • Expertise: Leverage external expertise for specific tasks.


  • Misuse: If the agent isn’t trustworthy, they might misuse their power.
  • Conflicts: Business decisions made by the agent might not align with other stakeholders.

Duties and responsibilities of an agent under a power of attorney

While much is discussed from the perspective of the principal, being an agent under a power of attorney is no light task. The agent is bound by law to act in the best interest of the principal, maintaining a fiduciary duty.

  • Acting in good faith: Every decision should be rooted in the principal’s best interest.
  • Keeping records: The agent should maintain meticulous records of all transactions or decisions made under the power.
  • Avoiding conflicts: The agent must refrain from any action that might conflict with the principal’s interest.

Failure to uphold these duties can lead to legal consequences for the agent, emphasizing the gravity of this responsibility.

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