Financial Power of Attorney

Author: Christina Bach, LCSW, MBE, OSW-C
Last Reviewed: February 14, 2024

A financial power of attorney (POA) is a legal document where you designate another person to handle financial matters if you cannot. Financial POA is completed by the “principal” who designates an “agent” to act on their behalf. 

What can a financial POA do?

Your financial POA can:

  • Access bank accounts.
  • Write checks.
  • Pay bills.
  • Sign real estate papers.
  • Execute other financial transactions.

It is extremely important to choose an agent for your financial POA that you TRUST COMPLETELY. They will be handling all of your financial matters AND have access to all of your funds. A financial POA does not have powers to make medical decisions on your behalf unless you also appoint them to be your health care POA/proxy.

Why do I need a financial POA?

Completing a financial POA is extremely important especially if you have a disabling medical condition or terminal illness. Just because you are sick, doesn’t mean bills aren’t due. If you are in the hospital or going through treatment, you may need someone to take over the day-to-day management of your finances. Think carefully BEFORE you appoint someone to be your “agent.” The “principal” may revoke the power of attorney document at any time.

How long is a financial POA active?

A financial POA is good for as long as the “principal” is alive if the type of document completed is a DURABLE financial POA. If it is not a durable POA, the power given to the agent ends when the principal becomes incapacitated. Incapacitation can be either physical (the person is unconscious) or mental (the person does not have the mental capacity to make decisions). The powers given by a financial POA always end when the “principal” dies. Any plans you would like to make for your finances after your death should be outlined in a Last Will and Testament.

How do I get a financial POA?

Because of the powers you are giving to another individual to manage your finances, it is important to consult with a lawyer or get legal assistance to complete a financial power of attorney. Ask friends and family if they have these documents and who they used to get them. You can also ask your social worker for a referral for legal aid.

It is important to talk with the person(s) you want to be your financial POA. Talk with them about their roles, limits and when they will be needed. You want to be sure they are comfortable with serving as your financial POA.

Completing a financial power of attorney is important for people with serious illness. You cannot predict when you may not be able to manage your bills and finances. Having this document in place can give you peace of mind that your financial matters will be taken care of in the event that you are not able to take care of them.

Resources for More Information

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, "What is power of attorney?"

Kunjukunju, S. (2020). Understanding Powers of Attorney to Protect Seniors. American Bankers Association. ABA Banking Journal, 112(6), 52-52.

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