You may face circumstances that require you to perform legal acts, such as withdrawing money from a bank account or consenting to medical treatment, on behalf of another person, known as the principal, who cannot perform these acts himself due to disability or other adverse circumstance. A valid power of attorney will allow you to perform these acts as agent for the principal without legal liability. Hospitals and banks often offer standardized power of attorney forms that have been drafted in accordance with state law. Otherwise, you may draft the appropriate form yourself.
Discuss the situation with the principal and determine what powers he should grant you. Two types of power are commonly granted: the power to make medical decisions on behalf of the principal, and the power to manage the principal's finances.
Read More: Explanation of Power of Attorney
Research state law to determine the requirements for a valid power of attorney. State laws differ, especially with respect to the inclusion of required statutory language and the manner in which the document must be signed.
Entitle the document "Power of Attorney."
Add any language required by statute. New York, for example, requires the inclusion of two passages listed in its power of attorney statute and entitled "Caution to the Principal" and "Important Information for the Agent." Pennsylvania requires the inclusion of a passage describing the powers and duties of the agent, and requires that the passage be printed in all capital letters. These passages must be word-for-word identical to the language set forth in the power of attorney statute.
Identify the principal by his full legal name and address and state that he is the principal who is granting powers to the agent. Identify yourself by your full legal name and address and state that you are the agent to whom these powers are granted.
State whether the power of attorney is durable or non-durable. A durable power of attorney continues in force while the principal is mentally incompetent or unable to communicate his wishes, while a non-durable power of attorney automatically lapses under these circumstances.
Identify which powers are to be granted to you. Draft this section clearly and include no vague statements. If you include the statement "The power to manage the principal's finances," for example, a question may arise if you attempt to donate money to charity on behalf of the principal. Instead, list the specific acts that you are entitled to perform. Nevertheless, reasonably general statements are acceptable, such as "The power to consent to medical treatment or to select from among alternative medical treatments recommended by a licensed physician."
Specify the duration of the power of attorney. You may list beginning and ending dates. You may also define the power of attorney in terms of events -- your powers may be triggered when the principal becomes incapacitated, for example, and lapse whenever he regains capacity.
Prepare a signature line that includes places for both you and the principal to sign and date the document. If state law requires witnesses or notarization, include spaces for them to sign and date the document. Prepare the document in duplicate.
Sign and date both copies of the document, and have the principal do the same, in the presence of witnesses or a notary public. Have the witnesses sign the document or have the notary public sign and seal it. Give one copy to the principal and keep one copy for yourself. You must present the document to third parties, such as physicians or bank officials, to exercise your powers.
Some states require the principal to execute two separate documents to grant the agent the authority to make both medical and financial decisions on behalf of the principal.
If the principal is not mentally competent and able to communicate, he cannot execute a valid power of attorney. Under these circumstances, consider petitioning a court for guardianship over the principal. A guardianship will allow you to perform the same legal acts that a power of attorney will.
- ExpertLaw: Power of Attorney
- AgingCare.com: How to Get Power of Attorney Ready Before Aging Patents Get Sick
- Lawyers.com: Powers of Attorney
- National Caregivers Library: What is Power of Attorney?
- Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes: Chapter 56: Powers of Attorney
- FindLaw: New York General Obligations Law -- Creation of a Valid Power of Attorney
David Carnes has been a full-time writer since 1998 and has published two full-length novels. He spends much of his time in various Asian countries and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese. He earned a Juris Doctorate from the University of Kentucky College of Law.