If you’re like me, you might have had no idea what a power of attorney (POA) was until your spouse prepared to deploy. All of a sudden, every milspouse you know is asking you if you have one, telling you about something called a specific POA, and telling you about how POAs have saved them time and time again.
Any milspouse will tell you that a POA is a document you definitely need to have in your kick-booty-milspouse-toolkit. It grants you the power to act for someone in legal and financial matters. And I have to say this because there’s always one or two abusers out there…. a POA IS NOT a license to make unilateral decisions (read: leaving your spouse in the dark) about major legal and financial matters.
The 411 on Powers of AttorneyPowers of attorneys are signed by a notary and the principal (likely you or your spouse) can choose how long they are valid.
From NOLO’s Plain-English Law Dictionary: A document that gives another person legal authority to act on your behalf. If you create such a document, you are called the principal, and the person to whom you give this authority is called your agent or attorney-in-fact.
Why You Need a POA
Like I said above, a POA gives you the ability to act for another person. And it’s not only a good idea to have one during a deployment, but all the time. Here are some examples of why you need to maintain POAs at all times:
- If something were to happen to you or your spouse? If you have POA over your spouse, and your spouse has POA over you, if either of you were unavailable in an emergency or during a separation, you’d be covered under a general POA.
- If you have children you should also have POA for any caregiver to act in place of you in case of a medical emergency.
Types of Powers of Attorney
General Power of Attorney: “A broad power of attorney document that gives the named agent power to handle all matters permitted by law on behalf of the person (called “the principal”) who executed the document.” (NOLO Law Dictionary)
Limited/Specific Power of Attorney: “A power of attorney that gives the agent power to handle only a specified matter — for example, to sign papers completing a single business transaction or property transfer.” (NOLO Law Dictionary)
Chances are you’ll need a mix of POAs. A general will only get you so far when it comes to matters regarding financial access in regards to military pay and records. Your best bet is to consult with your local legal office (JAG) if you’re confused or not sure which POA is/are right for you.
Where Do I Get A POA?
The JAG office on post will do them for free, which is great! It’s one of your many benefits of being a military family. Typically before a deployment your spouse will deal with all of that as part of the pre-deployment process. Of course, it’s a good idea to give your spouse a gentle reminder about updating those documents and keeping them current. Also, make sure he/she knows to get you specific ones rather than just general in the event of a deployment.
It’s always a good idea to go with your spouse to get POA for other things, not to mention securing other important documents like wills, to ensure that you are prepared regarding your children and worst case scenarios, discuss what types of POA are best for each situation with the JAG officer.
Using Your POA
Using a POA is fairly simple and painless. I’ve used it with our housing office, most recently when I moved from one house on base to another, and also when I renewed my registration when we still lived in WA. Both times I called ahead and asked if I needed anything special since my husband was gone, and both times they told me to bring my POA, and I did. The only thing I had to do was signed my name and write POA next to it when I signed the paperwork on behalf of my spouse. It’s really that easy. Promise.
POA Dos and Don’ts
- Don’t be offended if your spouse doesn’t want to get you every type of POA.
- Do use your POA the way it was intended.
- Do discuss using your POA with your spouse before you do anything, if possible.
- Don’t ruin your spouse’s credit by taking out a huge loan in his/her name just because you can with your POA