What is a Specific Power of Attorney?

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  • Written By: Daphne Mallory
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 20 June 2019
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A specific power of attorney grants authority to an individual to act on the behalf of the grantor in limited circumstances. The person who grants rights in the power of attorney is called the grantor. A specific power of attorney is also referred to as a limited power of attorney or special power of attorney in some jurisdictions. The grantor often needs someone to act on his behalf because he is legally incapacitated or otherwise unable to conduct his own affairs in certain matters. These matters may include financial, real estate, or business matters. Once executed, a specific power of attorney can often be revoked by the grantor or terminated upon the grantor’s death.

The agent in a specific power of attorney is often called the attorney-in-fact or authorized representative. In the document, the attorney-in-fact agrees to take on a fiduciary role in carrying out the tasks assigned. Tasks may include signing documents on behalf of the grantor, making payments, and disclosing the grantor’s personal information. The attorney-in-fact is not allowed to act beyond the scope of what the grantor permits in the limited power of attorney.


A general power of attorney is the direct opposite of a specific power of attorney. The authority-in-fact has the power and authority to act over all of the financial affairs of the grantor. There is no limitation to her scope of duties, but the representative must act faithfully and in the best interest when carrying out her fiduciary duties.

Some jurisdictions may require a signature and seal by a notary public to make the specific power of attorney valid. The requirement is a strict one in these jurisdictions to prevent forgery and fraud. The grantor may also be required to sign the document in the presence of witnesses instead of or in addition to the signature of a notary public.

One area in which a specific power of attorney is often used has to do with motor vehicle transactions. For example, one is needed when a government agency takes possession of a motor vehicle, when the grantor fails to pay for traffic violations and is unable to act on his own behalf. The authority-in-fact has the authority to pay for the violations and additional penalties, as well as to obtain a release of the motor vehicle. Without a signed document, the government agency would have no legal authority to transfer the vehicle to anyone other than the named owner of the vehicle.



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Post 2

@Soulfox -- And that is one of the reasons that it is a good idea to get a lawyer to put together something like that. You can get a form, but do you know the law well enough to know if it is the right one to use?

That is a good thing to know on the front end, I think.

Post 1

If you have a specific power of attorney drawn up, make sure to check the wording carefully. In most jurisdictions (as far as I know), a power of attorney that is not marked as specific will be treated as general, meaning you could have an attorney in fact running around who has power over everything instead of a limited power.

In actual fact, that might not matter just a whole lot, but it could make a major difference in how your affairs are handled. Someone could abuse that power far too easily.

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