Skip to Content
Grandparents with grandchildren symbolizing how planning your wills and estate can benefit the next generation.
Wills and estate planning

What is power of attorney?

When estate planning be sure to have a POA and appoint an agent to act on your behalf to manage your financial and legal affairs for a specified purpose and time.
When it comes to estate planning, having a power of attorney (POA) is a necessity for just about everyone. Why? Because illness, injury, growing older, or daily life commitments happen to all of us. For this reason, it's important to understand what a power of attorney is and how it can assist in taking care of business, even when you can't.

Power of attorney: Understanding what it means

A general power of attorney is a legal document that appoints one or more people (or even an organization) to make financial and legal decisions for you, often for a specific purpose and for a specific period of time.
Your agent (the person you want to manage your affairs) is given permission to act on your behalf. This means they can do one or even many different things such as:

  • Pay everyday expenses
  • Authority to use your bank accounts
  • Make investment decisions
  • Sell your property
  • Paying your taxes
  • Make mortgage payments
  • Run your business

As soon as you sign the POA over to your agent, they have the authority to act on your behalf as specified in the document's start and end dates. For example, if you need someone to run your business while you are traveling out of the country for the next two months, you can create a POA for the period that you are away.

However, it's important to note that with a general POA, your document becomes invalid if you were to become incapacitated, and at that time, your agent will lose all legal capacity to continue to act on your behalf. Your agent's powers also stop if they become bankrupt, chose to resign, or if you die.

If you're looking for a POA that grants someone permission to make medical decisions according to your wishes, and carry out the instructions in your living will if you were to become unconscious or incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself, then your estate plan should include a healthcare and/or a durable power of attorney with a medical directive.
For more information on estate planning, visit the Protective Learning Center.



Arrows linking indicating relationship

Related Articles

A man and woman are engaged in a conversation in an office setting

Durable power of attorney: Who to choose?

Learn more
Asian woman sitting in brightly lit office space and working on desktop computer.

What you need to know about medical power of attorney

Learn more
Middle aged woman working in an open space, researching something on her phone and computer.

The best time to plan your estate is now

Learn more

All Learning Center articles are general summaries that can be used when considering your financial future at various life stages. The information presented is for educational purposes and is meant to supplement other information specific to your situation. It is not intended as investment advice and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Protective Life or its subsidiaries.

Learning Center articles may describe services and financial products not offered by Protective Life or its subsidiaries. Descriptions of financial products contained in Learning Center articles are not intended to represent those offered by Protective Life or its subsidiaries.

Neither Protective Life nor its representatives offer legal or tax advice. We encourage you to consult with your financial adviser and legal or tax adviser regarding your individual situations before making investment, social security, retirement planning, and tax-related decisions. For information about Protective Life and its products and services, visit

Companies and organizations linked from Learning Center articles have no affiliation with Protective Life or its subsidiaries.