A Power of Attorney Can Be Your Best Friend When Planning a PCS

Wendy Poling
Frequent Contributor

"What I do is prepare myself until I know I can do what I have to do." - Joe Namath


Planning a move can be very complicated. Planning a move while your spouse is in Afghanistan is even more complicated and - frankly - confusing. On this particular day I went to our base legal office to find out what documents I needed to begin our PCS. Although my spouse would be home in time for our actual pack-out and move, I needed to schedule the movers before he arrived home to ensure we would get the best possible pack-out date for our family. I had no idea what to do first. I quickly learned I couldn't do anything until I had a Special Power of Attorney.


What is a Power of Attorney?


According to the U.S. Air Force's Legal Assistance website, "A power of attorney is a legal document that allows an individual ("principal") to delegate authority to another ("agent" or "attorney-in-fact") to accomplish an act or acts in the name of and for the benefit of the individual. There are two types of powers of attorney: a General Power of Attorney (GPOA) and a Special Power of Attorney (SPOA). A GPOA gives the agent the authority to do anything the principal can do and to do that act in the principal's name--such as entering or ending a contract, banking, opening accounts, etc. A SPOA gives the agent limited authority to do a specific act or acts in the principal's name such as sell a specific car or house. Service members (including retirees) and their dependents are eligible to obtain powers of attorneys through the legal assistance office."


Here are 7 specific examples when you might need a Special Power of Attorney:


  1. Banking - be able to endorse checks, make deposits, endorse/deposit government checks, access a safe deposit box or make a withdrawal.
  2. Children - make decisions regarding medical and dental care or give consent for a minor to travel.
  3. Military Dependant ID Cards / DEERS - obtain an ID card or enroll in DEERS.
  4. Household goods (including automobile) - ability to ship household goods, ship auto, receive household goods and claim damages.
  5. Military housing - accept quarters and vacate quarters.
  6. Personal property/automobile - purchase household items, register auto in specific state and/or sell auto.
  7. Real Estate - manage, lease, settle claims, mortgage, and refinance, obtain loan, buy, sell, rent.

The first step in getting advice for the preparation of GPOA or a SPOA is to visit your local base legal office. You can call in advance to find out their hours of operations, specific location, and process for setting up an appointment.

I was able - with the help of my local legal office - to get the correct SPOA, which my spouse later signed and had notarized while in country. Having this document allowed me to schedule our move on my own. I encourage you to visit your local legal office whenever you think you might be in need of a POA and visit them the earlier the better!


Related Links and Source Documents:

U.S. Navy JAG (Judge Advocate General)
U.S. Air Force Legal Assistance
U.S. Army Legal Assistance
U.S. Navy Power of Attorney / Notary Service Worksheet - PDF Document
Legal Preparations for Active Duty Deployment