A general power of attorney is an all-encompassing document in Texas. It allows someone else, called your "agent” or “attorney-in-fact,” to handle all your personal affairs without limitation. The individual you select does not have to be a lawyer; she can be your spouse, another relative or your best friend.
Your power of attorney can only authorize your agent to act on your behalf if you have your signature notarized. Texas does not require that you have the signatures of witnesses in addition to that of a notary. Your agent is not required to sign your GPOA. You don't have to file your power of attorney with the court. However, if you're entrusting your agent to buy or sell real estate for you, you do have to record the power of attorney with the clerk in each county where the property is located.
Texas does not have a statutory form you must follow to write a general power of attorney; there are no precise format or language requirements. However, it’s important to include your name as it appears on your accounts, your address, and the identity of the individual you’re naming as your agent. Because you’re giving her general, not limited, power of attorney, state that she has “full power and authority” to do anything you can do yourself. You can itemize a list of her powers if you like, but you run the risk of excluding her from doing something you might forget to mention.
A general power of attorney is not the same as a health care power of attorney, which Texas recognizes also. The latter allows your agent to make only medical decisions on your behalf. A GPOA does not usually authorize your agent to make health care decisions; it empowers her to deal with all your financial and personal business interests. Section 4898 of the Texas code requires your agent to keep a record of and report to you all actions she takes on your behalf.
Your power of attorney terminates when and if you become mentally incapacitated unless it specifically states that you’re appointing your agent to act on your behalf then as well. Such language makes it a "durable" power of attorney. You can also state that you don’t want your power of attorney to go into effect unless you become incapacitated. This is a “springing” GPOA. Regardless of the type of power of attorney, your death rescinds your agent’s power to handle your affairs.
If your GPOA is springing, Texas requires that your agent have authorization to begin her duties. Written confirmation from your doctor usually suffices, but check with a professional when you write your document if you want her to provide more proof than that or want to waive the requirement entirely.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.