A power of attorney is an instrument signed by one person, known as the principal, authorizing another, known as the agent or attorney-in-fact, to sign documents and/or perform actions on her behalf. The authority granted under a power of attorney can be broad or narrowly limited, depending on the intent. If you have been asked to be an attorney-in-fact for someone in Massachusetts, know that the appointment carries great responsibility to act in a trustworthy manor and in the best interest of the principal who appointed you.
Discuss the reasons or need for a power of attorney with the principal and determine whether you are the correct person to act as attorney-in-fact on her behalf. It is better for these conversations to be initiated by the principal, as Massachusetts laws against coercion or elder abuse prohibit individuals from taking advantage of another for their own personal gain. If, however, you are a child who is assisting with the day-to-day affairs of your parent anyway, out of love and a sense of duty you may wish to broach the subject to determine if your parent has or would entertain the idea of creating a power of attorney.
Read More: Can You Use Power of Attorney When a Person Is Alive?
Agree to accept the appointment only after fully understanding the ramifications of acting under the power of attorney. Understand what you are being asked to do and what responsibility you are being asked to accept. If the principal is appointing another individual to act on her behalf initially, she may have asked you to act as successor attorney-in-fact in the event that person is unable or unwilling to act in the future. If you would not be willing to accept an appointment as primary attorney-in-fact, do not agree to accept the responsibilities of a successor attorney-in-fact, as you may be called upon to step into the primary agent’s shoes in the future.
Acquire the properly executed power of attorney that complies with Massachusetts law from the principal appointing you as attorney-in-fact. The powers granted in the power of attorney, as well as state law, will generally determine the actions you may perform on the principal's behalf. Laws prohibit using a power of attorney for certain actions, such as testifying as a witness for someone else or voting for her. Know what powers are granted in the document. The principal may have merely appointed you to perform one single act under a specific or limited power of attorney, such as signing the title to a vehicle or signing a deed selling property while she is away. Alternatively, under a general and durable power of attorney, the principal may have appointed you to perform any and all actions that she could perform herself in the event she is unavailable or incapable of acting.
The person or institution relying on the power of attorney may require an affidavit from you that the principal is still living and that the power of attorney has not been revoked.
Due to changes in Massachusetts law, it is possible that durable powers of attorney drafted prior to July 2009 may need to be redrafted. Consider contacting an attorney if you are in that situation.
Online legal document preparation websites may assist your principal in obtaining the appropriate legal form for a power of attorney in Massachusetts.
- Massachusetts Estate Planning, Probate & Elder Law: Why Is It Important that a Massachusetts Power of Attorney Be “Durable” and Detailed?
- Elder Law and Estate Planning: Rights and Duties of an Attorney-in-Fact
- Seder & Chandler LLP, Attorneys at Law: Powers of Attorney
- Law Office of William J. Brisk: Financial Abuse Litigation in Massachusetts
Marie Murdock has been employed in the legal and title insurance industries for over 25 years. Murdock was first published in print in 1979 and has been writing online articles since mid-2010. Her articles have appeared on LegalZoom and various other websites.