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Powers of Attorney

I.  What is a Power of Attorney (PoA)

A power of attorney (PoA) is a document which allows you to designate a person to legally act on your behalf for a range of purposes.  The person given the PoA is called the agent or attorney-in-fact.  The person granting the PoA is called the principal.  The PoA authorizes the agent to transact business on the principal's behalf and in the principal's absence.


II.  Who is bound by a Power of Attorney

If the agent performs acts authorized under the PoA, the principal is legally responsible for those acts.  However, third parties like banks and businesses are not legally required to accept or honor a PoA; they can do so at their discretion.


III.  What is the difference between a Special and a General Power of Attorney?

There are two types of powers of attorney, general and special.  A general PoA authorizes the agent to do almost anything the principal can legally do.  For example, a general PoA allows the agent to sign any document on the principal's behalf; withdraw money from the principal's bank accounts; borrow money in the principal's name; sell, buy or mortgage a home; even enter into contracts in the principal's name.  Because of its tremendous scope, a general PoA is one of the most powerful and dangerous legal instruments you could execute.  You should, therefore, exercise great caution in deciding to grant a general PoA.  It should only be granted to someone in whom you have absolute trust and confidence. Unlike a general PoA, a special PoA (also known as limited PoA) only authorizes the agent to do one or certain specific acts, such as ship the principal's household goods, cash a paycheck, or sign in the principal's name for a particular purpose.


IV.  How can the scope of a PoA be limited?

The principal should grant no greater power than what is absolutely necessary for the intended purpose.  Also, the PoA should have an expiration date in order to protect the principal.  Never give a PoA for longer than the agent’s services are actually needed.  Only one original PoA is normally executed.  A photocopy of a PoA is generally useless because it does not bear the principal's original signature or the notary's seal.


V.  How long does the Power last?

A PoA terminates on the date specified on the document, unless the principal revokes it earlier, or state law limits its duration.  The power may also terminate automatically upon the death of either principal or agent.  Some states limit the effectiveness of a PoA to one year or some other specific period.  Any PoA over a year is generally considered stale and is unlikely to be accepted.  Yet, State law may also dictate that the PoA may be effective indefinitely (made "durable") in the event that the principal becomes mentally incapacitated.


VI.  How can a PoA be revoked?

It is extremely difficult to revoke a PoA.  The easiest way to revoke a PoA is to tear up the original.  Should you desire to revoke your PoA prior to its stated termination date, you should seek assistance of the Legal Assistance Office or of a civilian attorney in order to do so. If you have questions about powers of attorney or if you wish to execute one, visit your local legal assistance office during business hours: Monday-Wednesday, Friday 0900 to 1130 and 1300 to 1700, Thursdays 1300-1700.  The Schweinfurt Law Center is located on 3rd floor in Bldg. 1 on Conn Barracks.  You may contact the Legal Assistance Office by calling DSN 353-8384 or CIV 09721-96-8384.


PoA Use and Acceptance


  • HOUSING.  All tasks can be accomplished with a General PoA.  This includes signing for government furniture.
  • ID CARDS. Spouses can obtain a new ID car using a General PoA.
  • TRANSPORTATION.  All tasks can be accomplished with a General PoA.
  • VEHICLE REGISTRATION.  Vehicles can be registered and shipped using a General PoA.  However, Registration reserves the right to request further documentation if they feel that something improper is happening, e.g., spouse is trying to sell or ship a car without the servicemember’s knowledge.
  • FINANCE.  A General PoA can be used to obtain an LES, make a pay inquiry, submit a travel claim, and cash personal checks.  A Special PoA is required to start, stop, or change an allotment.
  • ANDREWS FEDERAL CREDIT UNION.  A General PoA can be used to make deposits, withdrawals, and sign checks out of an account.  An account cannot be closed or opened using any PoA.  A NEW line of credit cannot be established using any PoA, however, an existing line of credit can be maintained using a General PoA.
  • COMMUNITY BANK.  A General PoA can be used to make deposits, withdrawals, sign checks out of an account, and close an account.  A Special PoA can be used to change an account status (single or joint), and establish overdraft protection.  A NEW line of credit cannot be established using any PoA, however, an existing line of credit can be maintained using a General PoA.
  • GERMAN BANKS AND GERMAN GOVERNMENT AGENCIES.  At least a Special PoA is required, often personal execution of the PoA at that office even desired, i.e., a PoA established on their official office paper.  Therefore, if you deploy and your pregnant wife would like to name the baby and to pick up the birth certificate after the child’s birth, she will at least need a Special PoA.  It is even recommended you go to the Office of Vital Statistics (“Standesamt”), located in the Town Hall (“Rathaus”) before you deploy and sign all documents prior to the baby’s birth.


Since business practices tend to change, it is recommended you check with the business/office concerned up front in order to find out what kind of PoA they will accept for the things you plan to have your agent do for you.