Any competent adult can make a power of attorney, even a jail inmate. A power of attorney is a legal document by which a person gives someone else authority to make decisions on their behalf. If a friend or family member is incarcerated, a financial power of attorney would give you authority to manage his money and a parental power of attorney would allow you to make decisions about his children on his behalf. To do this, you'll need to meet the legal requirements for creating a power of attorney.
Power of Attorney
Some people consider powers of attorney relevant only to those who are medically incompetent to make their own decisions. But these legal documents can assist anyone who wants an agent to act for him, not just those who are incapacitated. The person making the power of attorney, termed the principal, names the agent, outlines the scope of authority and signs the document in the presence of witnesses or a notary, depending upon the laws in his home state.
You cannot force someone to make a power of attorney. The principal must make the decision of his own free will. You can educate an incarcerated person about powers of attorney when you visit him, or you can send him information about powers of attorney to show the ways in which the legal document could help him and his family. But a grant of authority under a power of attorney does carry some risk of abuse, especially when the principal is in jail and not able to oversee the agent. If the person opts against creating a power of attorney, your hands are tied.
Preparing the Document
If the incarcerated person agrees to sign a power of attorney, you can prepare one for him or have one prepared by an attorney and deliver it to him in jail. The form must be prepared according to the laws in the prisoner's home state; prisoners do not lose their legal residence even if they serve a lengthy jail term in another state. Appropriate forms are available from prisoner-aid organizations such as Legal Services for Prisoners With Children, as well as from the courts and reputable online providers. The power of attorney should be tailored to the prisoner's needs and reflect his choices.
Most states require that powers of attorney be signed by the principal in the presence of witnesses or a notary. An incarcerated principal also must follow these rules. If the prisoner has an attorney, you can ask the attorney to prepare it or you can give her the document and ask her to arrange for signature. Otherwise, ask prison officials how to proceed. Once the prisoner has signed the document appropriately, he can mail it or have it delivered to you.
If a power of attorney is done incorrectly, it might be rejected by the institutions being asked to accept it by the agent wishing to act on behalf of the inmate, which will cause delays. Always seek appropriate advice when preparing legal documents.
- Legal Services for Prisoners With Children: Power of Attorney
- American Bar Association: Power of Attorney
- Law Offices of Natalie J. Kaplan: Ten Questions and Answers on Durable Power of Attorney
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: What is a Power of Attorney?
- Prisoners of the Census: Frequently Asked Questions
- Power of Attorney Delegating Parental Power