A letter of authority works for simple tasks. It can be used for getting routine work done. But when there are big transactions, it is better to get a power of attorney because it sets out the manner in which the activity is to be done. A letter of authority may or may not specify how an activity is to be carried out. A power of attorney is a notarised document and has an additional edge. A letter of authority is not an authenticated document.  A letter of authority is a document under which one person authorises another person to do a particular act. Hence, it is used for very specific purpose . It can be, for instance, used for collecting or submitting documents on your behalf. Experts are unanimous that when large and proper transactions are to be carried out, you should opt for a power of attorney . A power of attorney can be of two types — general and special power of attorney. Your power of attorney would be ‘special’ if the appointment is made for a specified act or acts. and ‘general’ if it is made generally for certain acts, for eg, representation before the income-tax department. Further, your power of attorney could be irrevocable or revocable.

Also, your power of attorney may or may not require registration . A power of attorney dealing with immovable property requires mandatory registration. For eg, a power of attorney accompanied by a development agreement would mandatorily be required to be registered, while the power to operate a bank account may not require registration. Recently, a Supreme Court judgment ruled that general power of attorneys cannot be used for transfer of immovable properties . it was held by SC that General power of attorney have no legal sanctity and immovable property can be sold or transferred only through registered deeds.

Power of donor- The person who appoints another to act on his behalf is known as the donor. For instance, if, say, Anil is unwell and appoints another person, Sushil, to act on his behalf, then Anil is the donor and Sushil is the holder. However, both LoA and PoA do not offer the donor the same power to control activities of the holder. The difference between the two is in terms of the relationship between the entities involved. A letter of authority usually depicts the relationship of a master and servant, whereas the attorney relation is more like that of a principal and agent. In the case of the latter, the principal has the right to direct as to what act one is expected to perform, whereas in the case of the former, a master has the right to direct ‘what’ as well as ‘how’ the work is to be done. The tasks that are specified in an LoA are usually carried out under the supervision of the person bestowing the authority and the grantee has to conform to all the reasonable orders in the course of that work, whereas in the case of a PoA, there is a greater scope for independence.

Precautions – One should be very careful before handing over either document, LoA or PoA, to another person as one can do little to prevent its misuse. This is because these documents, especially the PoA, is accompanied by a ratification clause, which automatically results in vicarious liability. This means that it makes the donor responsible for the acts of the holder. One of the key measures to avoid the misuse of an LoA or PoA is to have clarity. You should be very specific in granting the power of attorney for two reasons. One is that you should know the powers that you are giving the other person, and the second is that the person receiving the PoA should know the scope of his powers. You must make clear the matters on which the holder can represent himself on your behalf.

Revocation of PoA- You should specify the duration of the PoA and how it is to be revoked.  You must also make it clear why you are giving the power of attorney. For example, if you are ill and have asked somebody to act on your behalf regarding property matters, you must state this in the PoA. It is better if you place limitations. Specify when your PoA will stand revoked and under what circumstances the document can be used.

Cancellation of document- You should cancel the document, be it the LoA or PoA, once the work is complete. You can simply cancel an LoA by issuing a fresh one that states this clearly. “The revocation should be intimated to the people dealing with the person who has the letter of authority. There cannot be an irrevocable letter of authority. However, in the case of a PoA, the procedure is more complex. If it is revocable, the document should mention the circumstances under which it can be revoked. Even if does not do so, you can revoke it by executing a document, cancelling it. If the power of attorney was registered, you need a registered deed of cancellation. It will be better if you put up a public notice in a newspaper stating that the PoA has been revoked. However, this procedure is only possible if the PoA is revocable one. An irrevocable PoA should be made after due deliberation and is useful in circumstances when it needs to be operated upon after the death of the granter.

Holder’s responsibility- Holder of an LoA or PoA should be aware of the task at hand as well as the purpose for which it is delegated and should act in conformity with these two parameters in order to avoid trouble. “The holder of a letter of authority or power of attorney should be careful not to act beyond the authority granted under the document.  The Supreme Court has said that the holder can act beyond his authority only in cases of emergency, and if it is beneficial to the donor. in cases other than an emergency, if the holder acts beyond his authority, the aggrieved party, that is, either the donor or another affected party, can file a suit in a court of law.

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0 responses to “Difference between Power of attorney and Letter of authority”

  1. CA Vinit Kulkarni says:

    May i get format of letter of authority under partnership Act,1932.

  2. Narendra Sharma says:

    (1) No. I am afraid, the Author has misdirected himself. Kindly refer para 19 of the SC judgment, an extract is given below. A three judge bench of hon’ble Supreme court in Suraj Lamp & Industries Pvt. Ltd. Vs. State of Haryana & Anr. {Special Leave Petition (C) No.13917 OF 2009; Decided on 11 October, 2011} has held, inter alia as follows.
    “19. We make it clear that our observations are not intended to in any way affect the validity of sale agreements and powers of attorney executed in genuine transactions. For example, a person may give a power of attorney to his spouse, son, daughter, brother, sister or a relative to manage his affairs or to execute a deed of conveyance. A person may enter into a development agreement with a land developer or builder for developing the land either by forming plots or by constructing apartment buildings and in that behalf execute an agreement of sale and grant a Power of Attorney empowering the developer to execute agreements of sale or conveyances in regard to individual plots of land or undivided shares in the land relating to apartments in favour of prospective purchasers. In several States, the execution of such development agreements and powers of attorney are already regulated by law and subjected to specific stamp duty. Our observations regarding `SA/GPA/WILL transactions’ are not intended to apply to such bonafide/genuine transactions.” 

    (2) FURTHER, I endorse the above comment REPRODUCED BELOW.

    “An irrevocable PoA should be made after due deliberation and is useful in circumstances when it needs to be operated upon after the death of the granter.” should be modified.. It cannot be operated after death and legal heirs of granter can easily challenge such action.

  3. prakash says:

    Sir, Basic notion of POA is that it is valid till the donor is alive and it cannot be acted upon after death of a donor—since he cannot do any act in this world after his death.Therefore the sentence in the article
    “An irrevocable PoA should be made after due deliberation and is useful in circumstances when it needs to be operated upon after the death of the granter.” should be modified.. It cannot be operated after death and legal heirs of granter can easily challenge such action.

  4. Tushar Borse says:

    Dear Sir,

    I have one question, if as per SC’s judgement General power of attorney have no legal sanctity and immovable property can be sold or transferred only through registered deeds- then what is the validity of Sale deeds registered & executed through registered POA holder on behalf of Vendor/Seller?  

  5. nilesh chawda says:

                  BOTH DOCUMENTS R RELATED TO EMPOWERMENT. AN ILLUMINATING LANDMARK JUDGEMENT OF THE hON.APEX COURT IN CASE OF ‘ BASANT NAHATA Vs. STATE OF RAJASTHAN IS AVAILABLE ON S.C. WEBSITE. Citations: 2005 (12) SCC 77 : 2005 (6) Supreme 243 : 2005 (8) JT 171 : 2005 (7) Scale 164 : 2005 AIR(SC) 3401 : 2005 AIR(SCW) 4456 PL. READ IT. A power of attorney is, as is well-known, a document of convenience.  
    AND Rajni  Tandon   …..Appellant  Versus Dulal Ranjan Ghosh Dastidar & Anr.                        ….Respondents [ S.C.] Date of Judgement :- 29/07/2009.           EVERY P.O.A IS LETTER OF AUTHORITY AND VICE VERSA. 
    THE LEGAL SQIBBLING AND LABEL / NOMENCLATURE MAKES DIFFERENCE

  6. Murali says:

    Could you please tell whether letter of authority requires to be executed on stamp paper?

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