Power of attorney (POA) is the authority to act on someone else’s behalf. “POA” is also the name for the document giving someone POA.

Anyone having surgery, for example, especially under general anesthesia should think about making a health care POA in case someone needs to make medical decisions for them.

Roles played when creating a health care POA

In the surgery example, the person going into surgery is the “principal,” and the person getting POA is their “agent.”

Minnesota law keeps POA roles separate to prevent conflict of interest and other problems. As just one example, the principal’s doctor cannot act as the agent making POA decisions for them.

Authority and duty of someone with health care POA

The agent has the power to make health care decisions (including consenting to procedures, reading medical records, etc.) during the time the principal cannot.

The agent must “act in good faith,” that is, honestly try to make decisions in the spirit of the promise made to the principal, even when those decisions get tricky. And they cannot take unfair advantage of their power.

Proper POAs from other states are welcome here

POAs usually travel well between states. Minnesota recognizes an out-of-state POA if it complies with Minnesota’s laws or those of its home state.

A POA made according to Minnesota laws might also need to work elsewhere. This probably will not to be a problem, but it is smart to check the laws of any other state or country of interest.

Getting out of a POA

When the principal is alert, oriented and ready to make decisions again, they must revoke the POA. In Minnesota, this is easy. The principal can sign and date a statement revoking the POA, or just say they consider it revoked in front of two witnesses (together or separately).

If these are not dramatic enough, Minnesota lets the principal revoke a POA by “canceling, defacing, obliterating, burning, tearing, or otherwise destroying” it. When a spouse is the agent, divorce also revokes a POA.