Texas Estate Planning: What are Powers of Attorney and Advanced Directives?

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General powers of attorney, durable powers of attorney, limited powers of attorney, medical powers of attorney, and advance directives are important tools that you can use as part of your estate plan, end-of-life planning, or to accomplish specific goals when you need a trusted agent to conduct business on your behalf.

In this article, we will answer some common questions about powers of attorney (POAs) in Texas, including:

  • What you can accomplish with a POA in Texas,
  • The difference between a general, durable, and limited POA,
  • The difference between a medical power of attorney and a living will, and
  • The difference between an executor and an agent with a POA.

Powers of Attorney in Texas – What are They and When Do You Need One?

A power of attorney, or “POA,” is a formal legal document that gives an “agent” permission to make certain decisions or take certain actions on behalf of another person, the “principal.”

When do you need a power of attorney in Texas?

Any time you (the “principal”) need someone to make decisions or take actions on your behalf because you cannot – whether it is because you are physically absent or mentally incapable, you will need a power of attorney to allow an agent to handle your affairs for you.

The type of power of attorney you need will depend on your circumstances – the POA could be used to handle your financial affairs, medical decisions, or end-of-life decisions, and a power of attorney can be limited in its scope as needed.

General Power of Attorney

A general power of attorney gives the agent authority to conduct business on behalf of the principal, including managing real estate, bank accounts, financial transactions, or business affairs.

A general POA does not last forever – it may end when:

  • The document specifies that it ends,
  • Once a specified task has been completed,
  • The principal dies,
  • The principal becomes incapacitated, or
  • The principal revokes the power of attorney.

Durable Power of Attorney

Because a general power of attorney terminates when the principal becomes incapacitated, you would not use it for end-of-life planning or in any situation where incapacitation is expected.

In this case, you would use a durable power of attorney which allows the agent to conduct business on behalf of the principal and manage their financial affairs 1) even though the principal becomes incapacitated or 2) once the principal becomes incapacitated.

Limited Power of Attorney

You can also limit the agent’s authority to specific actions or a specific timeframe, allowing them to conduct single or multiple specified transactions without giving the agent full authority over your bank account and finances.

For example, you could give someone a limited power of attorney to conduct transactions at the DMV or to communicate with the comptroller about your state taxes.

Medical Powers of Attorney and Advanced Directives – What’s the Difference?

A durable or general power of attorney typically is used for financial or business affairs, while a medical power of attorney appoints an agent who is authorized to make healthcare decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated and unable to communicate your wishes.

A medical power of attorney can be used even if you are not diagnosed with a terminal illness for purposes other than end-of-life planning.

Advance Directives/ Living Will

An advance directive, or “living will,” is used for end-of-life care to document your wishes for the medical treatment you want to receive and to give a trusted agent the authority to make decisions on your behalf if you cannot communicate your wishes.

DNR/ Do Not Resuscitate Order

An advance directive does not automatically include a DNR order, but you can include a DNR order with your advance directives if you choose. A DNR order documents that you do not wish life-saving procedures to be performed if your heart stops or you stop breathing.

What’s the Difference Between an Executor of an Estate and an Agent with a POA?

A general or durable power of attorney terminates upon the principal’s death, and the executor or personal representative of the estate then takes over the task of managing and wrapping up the person’s financial affairs, including:

  • Estate administration,
  • Making an inventory of the estate,
  • Paying the estate’s debts,
  • Recovery funds owed to the estate,
  • Providing an accounting to the beneficiaries upon request (15 months after appointment), and
  • Distributing the assets of the estate to the beneficiaries as identified in the decedent’s will.


Please feel free to contact one of our Murray Lobb attorneys to obtain our assistance with powers of attorney, living wills, advanced directives, probate administration, or other issues related to estate planning or the probate process. We also remain available to help you with all your general corporate, construction law, business, and estate planning needs.