A power of attorney is a legal document that allows the principal to give an agent the legal power to act on his behalf. There are a number of different types of power of attorneys, but all terminate upon the death of the principal.
When a person gives a power of attorney to an agent, that agent may act on behalf of the principal as if she were the principal. The agent may sign the principal's name to legal documents, transact business and make legal decisions.
There are three basic types of power of attorney. The general power of attorney gives the agent broad powers to act on behalf of the principal but will terminate upon the incapacity of the principal. A special power of attorney gives the agent the capacity to act on behalf of the principal for a designated purpose or transaction only. A health care power of attorney allows the principal to designate an agent to make health care decisions if she becomes incapable of making them herself. Any power of attorney can be made durable, meaning it survives the incapacity of the principal.
A power of attorney always terminates upon the death of the principal. A power of attorney should not be confused with a will. While a power of attorney may terminate for other reasons as well, it will always terminate upon death.