When does a Power of Attorney come into effect and what are the obligations of an attorney when acting under a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that authorises an individual or an organisation to act on behalf of another individual. There are two types of Powers of Attorney in Queensland: A General Power of Attorney and an Enduring Power of Attorney.

A General Power of Attorney comes into effect immediately after it is signed and registered. This type of Power of Attorney is only applied for a short period, which may include travel or other circumstances where the principal appoints a trusted person to act on their behalf temporarily.

An Enduring Power of Attorney comes into effect when either the principal loses the mental capacity to make decisions or indicates in the document that they would like their attorney to act on their behalf immediately. With an Enduring Power of Attorney document, the attorney can make decisions for the principal even after they have lost their capacity to make decisions.

Capacity is a legal term referring to the ability to exercise the decision-making process in relation to a matter. An attorney appointed for a personal matter (including health) under an enduring document has the power to make decisions for a principal has impaired capacity for making a particular decision.

When acting under a Power of Attorney, an attorney has specific legal obligations. Some of these obligations are mentioned below.


An attorney is expected to use the power of attorney document in good faith. Acting in good faith means that the attorney must use the Power of Attorney document honestly and with integrity. An attorney can violate this obligation if they misuse the power for personal gain or carry out transactions that are not in the principal’s best interest. Any actions taken by the attorney must be for the principal’s benefit and carried out honestly to the best of their ability.


The Power of Attorney document outlines the powers and limitations that an attorney has when acting on behalf of the principal. The attorney’s obligation is to respect and adhere to the wishes of the principal as outlined in the Power of Attorney document.


An attorney must act prudently and with diligence when carrying out transactions on behalf of the principal. The attorney’s standard of care should be that of a reasonable person acting in a similar capacity. This means that the attorney should always act in a way that promotes the wellbeing of the principal and ensures that the principal’s assets are well managed.


An attorney has a legal obligation to comply with any laws or policies that apply to their role, and any directions or instructions from the principal concerning their actions under the Power of Attorney. The attorney must act honestly and not engage in any fraudulent or illegal activities.