Re: The Meaningless Power of Attorney

Andi’s post about the Meaningless Power of Attorney has some bearing in my life as well. Before MacGyver deployed, I had a checklist of all of the things I wanted/needed while he was gone:

– will
– family care plan (in case I was incapacitated while he was deployed)
– PowerS of Attorney

I have two. I have a General which is essentially worthless. I don’t know that it is worth the paper it is written on. I’ve never used it and probably never will need to. Then I have a Specific Power of Attorney. This one allows me to do everything except have MacGyver’s wisdom teeth pulled while he’s deployed. JAG was less than enthusiastic about preparing such a document – I am sure they have seen many a soldier taken advantage of by their spouse with such a document. But that is NONE of their business.

So I made sure I had it. While he is gone, I want to have as much control over OUR lives as possible. However, when I went to buy my car, I found that there are no Hawaiian banks that will accept a Power of Attorney of any kind. And that is their prerogative. The dealership suggested that I apply under my own name for the financing with the Hawaiian bank. I politely declined and told them that I refused to do business with any entity that would not accept a military Power of Attorney. It’s a matter of principle.  Deployments are a fact of life in the military and there are very few places on this planet where the military is so prevalent in society than in Hawaii. Any business or entity that is not willing to accept my military Power of Attorney is therefore not accepting me as a military spouse nor are they accepting my husband as a military member. Therefore they do not need or want my business.

So I chose to go with a non-Hawaiian bank and they lost business and money. Their choice. Mine too.

However I also realize the fact that financial institutions are not bound to accept any Power of Attorney. Therefore I took steps to ensure access to all financial accounts that MacGyver and I have. My name is on every account. I am not an "authorized user" on all of them (don’t need to be, nor do I want to be. Too many "open" accounts is not good for the credit rating if you care about that type of thing) but I am able to access account information, make payments, inquire about purchases and charges on the account, etc. It is good for my husband’s credit (again, if you care about a credit rating…some people do not) if I am on top of these things while he is gone. Otherwise, issues with those accounts may not be addressed until he comes home for R&R (who wants to do THAT?) or until he redeploys.

Because I have access to all of our accounts, I really don’t "need" a Power of Attorney of any kind. But it’s nice to have one should I need it, especially when dealing with Finance (who DO accept Power of Attorney!).

– hfs

About the Author

Homefront Six

Homefront Six is a past SpouseBUZZ blogger.

  • Jo

    We did the same thing, we each are on each others accounts as users, and the only 2 items that we are not on are our respective vehicles. I have a tendency to trade in while he’s deployed ;) … But PoA are not worth the paper they are printed on. Hubby has advised several of his soldiers before deployment to make sure the spouse is on all accounts and can manage them. Good advice.

  • I don’t think most of us know the difference between specific and general POA. I know I don’t. POA was on the discussion list at our last Family Support Group meeting. One poor gal needs a new furnace and can’t get a short term loan, even with the POA. She is a SAHM with no income outside her hubby’s. She is trying to get some help from the American Legion. I LOVE the idea of making a huge list of companies that won’t accept military POA and boycotting the lot of them!

  • BTW, Verizon was happy to help with my cell phone account with the general POA. Even when DH didn’t even have my name on the account at all.
    Thank you, Verizon!

  • Hehe, funny that you make the comment about Verizon.. I actually work for Verizon Wireless, in case any of you didn’t know, the military gets huuuuugggeeee discounts! And, we are always very good about any situations that arise, with or without the POA! Especially me, but I guess thats because of my situation, I tend to take it a little easier on those that are going through the same thing that I am!

  • Yeah! Discounts! I’ll call tomorrow!
    Thank you!

  • From
    “Types of Powers of Attorney
    There are, at a basic level, two types of powers of attorney. A “general” power of attorney is unlimited in scope and duration, and permits the named individual to act as your legal representative in relation to financial matters until such time as it is revoked.
    A “specific” power of attorney imposes limits upon the named representative, and may restrict the scope of that person’s powers to a single type of conduct or a single transaction. For example, the person could be granted the power to engage in financial transactions from a specific checking account, or to sign the closing documents for a specific real estate transaction.
    Either type of power of attorney may be limited in its duration. That is, the document can specify a date after which the power of attorney will no longer be valid.
    Ordinarily, power of attorney forms do not have to be registered with the state. However, if a power of attorney grants somebody the right to engage in transactions relating to real estate, it may be necessary to record the form.”
    “A general power of attorney is very broad and provides extensive powers to the person or organization you appoint as your agent. These powers usually include:
    * Handling banking transactions
    * Entering safety deposit boxes
    * Handling transactions involving U.S. securities
    * Buying and selling property
    * Purchasing life insurance
    * Settling claims
    * Entering into contracts
    * Exercising stock rights
    * Buying, managing or selling real estate
    * Filing tax returns
    * Handling matters related to government benefits
    You also have the option to grant the following additional powers to your Agent:
    * Maintaining and operating business interests
    * Employing professional assistance
    * Making gifts
    * Making transfers to revocable (“living”) trusts
    * Disclaiming interests (this has to do with estate planning strategies to avoid estate taxes)
    A general power of attorney is usually used to allow your agent to handle all of your affairs during a period of time when you are unable to do so. For example, when you are traveling out of the state or country or when you are physically or mentally unable to handle your affairs. A general power of attorney is frequently included as part of an estate plan to make sure that you have covered the possibility that you might need someone to handle your financial affairs if you are unable to do so.

    “A special power of attorney allows you to give only specific powers to the person or organization you appoint as your “Agent.” For example, you could authorize someone to sell a car or a house for you.
    Many people use the special power of attorney to authorize their Agent to do one or several of the following:
    * Handle banking transactions
    * Enter safety deposit boxes
    * Handle transactions involving U.S. securities
    * Collect debts
    * Sell real estate
    * Mortgage real estate
    * Manage real estate
    * Sell personal property
    * Borrow money
    * Manage business interests
    * Handle government issues
    * Make financial decisions
    * Make estate planning decisions, including gifts
    A special power of attorney is often used to allow your Agent to handle specific situations for you when you are unavailable or unable to do so. For example, you may be traveling outside the state or country, or you may be unable to handle a specific situation because of other commitments, or health reasons. ”
    My General POA allows me to:
    – deal with any of my servicemember’s property including automobiles (i.e. lease, sell, establish title to, insure, regsiter, etc.)
    – transact all business of his on his behalf including entering into contracts and making investments
    – deal with litigation on his behalf
    – file taxes, etc.
    – execute all documents needed for travel, storage, etc.
    – demand monies owed him
    – received LES
    It prevents me from cancelling or changing beneficiaries on life insurance; it limits my fiduciary powers.
    My Special POA allows me to deal with DFAS, housing, TMO (moving), etc.
    There is more to each of my POAs but those are the basic tenants of each.

  • Just a note from the JAG perspective – they often end up dealing with the mess created by spouses who take advantage of their POA. That’s why they are cautious when issuing them, especially if someone wants a long-term general POA.
    Personally, I’ve never had a special POA except when we bought a house while DH was TAD. Most everything is in my name, and I use the general POA for everything else.

  • JAG can be unnecessarily obnoxious about it IMHO. I think they should just have a prepared statement to read to the servicemember. Yes, it can cause problems and has…but our servicemembers are adults and they are going to have to learn some things about the adult world.
    Anyway…just to reiterate, always check with financial institutions about whether they require their own or will accept any at all.
    Also, bank-wise, I have always found USAA MORE than helpful from the military standpoint.

  • tankerswife

    I had issues with the POA thing too. The AF JAG refused to do a general POA and only counseled hubby to get 2 specific POA’s. As t turned out, I could sell our house, file for a tax return and take all our money, and I had life and death decision-making capability, but I couldn’t cash a $75 per diem check! So it became a comical game at the bank…drive to the teller window, deposit the check, drive back around to the atm, and pull the cash out.

    • Julie

      OMG… that is funny!! I thought I was the only one that did that…!! :)

  • just me

    tankerswife, i had a similar experience when i was a new army wife at the POST bank when my dh was deployed. back when i had to paper file taxes. i was just trying to DEPOSIT the state tax refund ck from OUR homestate that was in both our names into our joint acct. they absolutely would not allow me to. i had to go thru MUCH bs and had to mail stuff to him, he had to sign stuff in front of a witness, mail the crap back to me, i STILL had issues so had to get the rear d commander to physically come to the bank w/ me and vouch for my dh! i was totally appalled.
    but i pretty much agree: poa’s are worthless.
    I agree w/ making sure you have access to every acct.
    and i also agree that if it was possible, i wouldnt do biz w/ a co that was snubbing my mil poa thus mine and my dh’s position.

  • usmcwife

    While I agree that in many cases the POA is not alot of help, they are good to have. After reading the other posts it seems that a new spouse or someone on their 1st deployyment would not feel it necessary to get one which would be a big mistake. If they need to get into housing or sign any other military paperwork they will need one. As far as how much trouble they can cause, I know the USMC gives the Marines paperwork advising them if they are having marital problems or have any trust issues that they should not sign over the POA anyways. Just like with anything else in the military, nothing ever goes perfectly.

  • usmcwife

    While I agree that in many cases the POA is not alot of help, they are good to have. After reading the other posts it seems that a new spouse or someone on their 1st deployyment would not feel it necessary to get one which would be a big mistake. If they need to get into housing or sign any other military paperwork they will need one. As far as how much trouble they can cause, I know the USMC gives the Marines paperwork advising them if they are having marital problems or have any trust issues that they should not sign over the POA anyways. Just like with anything else in the military, nothing ever goes perfectly.

  • Brenda

    I am first going to admit that I didn’t read this whole blog because I couldn’t. I have been in the same boat as you not being able to change addresses, not being able to get paperwork from the bank I needed to complete a task I was doing and I too was very annoyed and down right PISSED cussing everyone I could just to prove my point. But on the other hand I am very excited to hear that the car dealer would not sell you the auto without your husband here with just your POA. An ex-wife I know took her POA and bought a condo in a soldiers name then promptly divorced him. This is what evil women do to the soldiers of this country. How many times have you heard that wives go out and buy stuff with the POA and run up debt forcing the soldier to deal with the after math. They are for once watching after the soldier and not letting them get screwed, it had nothing to do with them ignoring the fact HE is in the military or that your a military wife (which doesn’t give you the right for any special treatment btw). I’m hoping that you are not one of the evil ones I have talked about but unfortunatly the good ones will have to pay for the evil that has been done in the past. I hope that more people will watch after the soldier.

  • Brenda ~ No evilness here, last I checked ;) MacGyver and I have a “full disclosure” policy with pretty much everything in life, finances included. No purchase (other than the piddly ones) is made without agreement. And yes, it is unfortunate that there are some spouses out there whose actions cause inconvenience for the rest of us.
    It is the choice of the business as to whether they accept a Power of Attorney (military or otherwise) and I seriously doubt that their refusal to do so has anything to do with altruisim for the servicemember. It’s about their bottom line. And that’s ok. I understand. It’s business. It’s not personal. As is my decision to take my business elsewhere.
    As for JAG, I also understand their motivation – protection of the servicemember and wanting to prevent a mess that they will need to get involved in should the spouse with the POA use it inappropriately. However, my marriage is my business and, at the time, I resented the fact that the person at JAG was trying to counsel my husband about the “dangers of giving up too much control over finances” while I was standing there. I got over it though.
    I see it as my responsibility, especially during this deployment while my husband is in harms’ way, to maintain (if not improve) the financial health of our family. He’s doing his job, therefore I need to do mine.
    *steps down off soapbox*
    – hfs

  • LAW

    Brenda, those of us who are not the evil ones, are sick of paying for their deeds. But yes, we have everything jointly (that’s called marriage) all I wanted to do was get the interest on an account down to the statutory amount. sorry I was trying to save some of his money.
    And oh, by the way, that money isn’t just his. I figure I have earned what I make, and only by combining it with “his” money do we get what’s called “our” money. and that’s called Marriage…
    I don’t need my husband’s “permission” to do squat. I am an adult, and so is he. If I think we should buy a new car, and we have discussed it, and can afford it, I will do it. permission? excuse me? This is 2006, not 1806.
    Special treatment? oh, this is rich.. My special treatment is to live like a nun for years, to put up with all the military junk, sit by the phone and hope and wait and worry. Yes, dammit, I do deserve special treatment.

  • POA’s.. I feel so lucky after reading everyone’s posts.. I have never had a problem with the POA, not with my mortgage, bank, vehicles, bills, nothing.. The problem I did experience….The POA never seemed to get to the right places.. I mailed them, I faxed them, I hand delivered them.. I do not live on a base, so I don’t deal with people who handle the military on a day-by-day basis.. Once each specific place had the POA, they have been nothing but helpful! It was a matter of one second they had it, and the next they didn’t! That’s what causes me to cry, and then end up swearing because the mortgage company talked to me just last week, and now all of a sudden I’m not listed as the POA!! WHAT THE HECK!

  • Nadine

    I’m frustrated. I have a general Military POA and I wanted to open a joint high interest bearing savings account and I was denied. The POA is weirdly worded so that it says ut doesn’t take affect until he is disabled or incapacitated. I’ve been leaving messages with the JAG and with the Family Assistance Center and NOTHING as of yet. I can’t even change our address for him. We are NG so I don’t live near any military base. I agree that its bunk that it doesn’t have to be accepted. If you can’t trust someone, why did you marry them???? We have full trust in each other and selfish people have ruined it for everyone.

  • Justinssweetums

    I had the same problem, first with first hawaiin bank, then with bank of hawaii. Who did you end up going with? It really pisses me off because deployments are common place and as a stay at home his income is what qualifies us.
    As for you Nadine, just go to and change his address. If its for billing, are his accounts online? if not you can make them that way usually with just a ss#, acct. #, etc. Really there are ways around it.
    As for Hawaii…how I can’t wait to get off this stupid island. They really do hate military here I tell you