If you’ve been stationed overseas and subjected to AFN commercials, you will giggle at the mention of Hercules and the Golden Fleece. While the commercial is incredibly corny, the message is sincere. Jokes aside, granting a power of attorney is a serious matter, one that should be discussed with an attorney and never entered into lightly.
Let’s start from the beginning, what is a power of attorney — most commonly referred to as a POA? We talked with milspouse and non-practicing, but educated as a lawyer (because, hello, PCS and state licenses), Anna Blanch Rabe to get a little insight. “A power of attorney is a document that allows you to appoint a person or organization to manage your affairs if you are unable to do so,” she said. “For many military families, a POA will save many issues when a service member is deployed or TDY.”
Where Can I Get a Power of Attorney?
The easiest place a milspouse can get a power of attorney is JAG on their installation. For those whose service member may forget to get one before leaving, or who may need to update it later, JAG generally has offices even overseas. Bonus: JAG services are free!
A POA must be notarized and doesn’t always require an attorney to be present. This may give you more options if you are at a remote duty station or are unable to get to JAG. But, as with all things legal, the rules vary from state to state, and you should check the state you are physically living in for the details.
What are the Different Types?
There are different kinds of POAs. For the purposes of this discussion, we are going to talk about a general POA and a special POA. Like their names indicate, a general POA gives the other person the authority to do a “general” list of things. The special POA is for one specific thing, like buying a house.
Rabe reminds us that the fine print is important, “All POAs are not created equal. Each type gives the person who will be making decisions on your behalf a different level of control. The broadest is a general POA. For some activities, you will require a special POA.”
Of course, the military isn’t super clear on what you need a special POA for, but the one thing we’ve discovered is that the finance office won’t talk to you without one. “You may need a special to use the service member’s VA benefits to buy a home or to buy and sell a vehicle. Some banks also require a special POA even though a general prepared by a JAG does explicitly include dealings with banks,” Rabe added.
Why Would I Need One?
There’s no blanket reason why you’d need a POA. Some spouses may never need one, some may use them all the time — you may even feel best covered when you have an active general POA at all times. From experience, the most common reasons for acquiring a POA are:
- Signing a lease or buying a house
- Moving household goods
- Renewing your ID card
- Buying a car
- Managing any contract or account in your service member’s name
When preparing for deployments, most commands will mention POAs to the service members, so they have time to think about, discuss, and get them for their spouse or a trusted person before they leave.
Each situation is different and, therefore, may involve different, or even multiple, powers of attorney. One service member may choose to give their spouse a general POA and one may not. Just like marriages should not be compared to each other, neither should the issuance of powers of attorney.
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