Do-It-Yourself Power of Attorney

By Joseph Nicholson

Power of Attorney (POA) is a common legal document that does not require execution by an attorney. But drafting a Power of Attorney should not be undertaken lightly. Each state's laws govern the requirements for a POA, and it's wise to start with statutory forms. It's also possible to download or purchase pre-made forms, which are of varying reliability. The most proactive approach is to draft your document to meet your specific needs, based on other forms.

Review Statutory Forms

Statutory Power of Attorney forms are those based on the text of state laws. They include a variety of blank lines that can be filled in to identify relevant parties and assigned powers. Most statutory forms list all the categories of powers that can be granted to an agent via a POA, and they require the person drafting the document (the principal) to select or cross-out the appropriate powers. The statutory POA form is the simplest do-it-yourself POA, but it can be difficult to tailor to specific circumstances.

Purchase a Form or Kit

The Internet features a wide variety of forms for download and/or purchase. Some are plain forms; others include interactive services that help the principal complete the document. The cost for an online POA ranges from $15 to $35 or more, depending on the level of personalized attention required. There is the risk when using an online form that the document will not comply with the laws of your state or be specific to your needs. This risk can be minimized by using state-specific templates and comparing them to statutory forms.

Draft an Original Document

The most ambitious and elegant do-it-yourself Power of Attorney is from your own design. You must borrow the language and formatting of the statutory forms to ensure enforceability. You must understand the precise goals of the document prior to drafting and to understand the various kinds of POA (such as durable, revocable, and limited) to create the appropriate document.

Execute the Form Appropriately

A POA does not need to be filed, but it must be signed and witnessed. Most states require the form to be notarized, so do not sign it until you are in the physical presence of a notary. A notary, however, cannot give legal advice about the document's effectiveness.

About the Author

Joseph Nicholson is an independent analyst whose publishing achievements include a cover feature for "Futures Magazine" and a recurring column in the monthly newsletter of a private mint. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Florida and is currently attending law school in San Francisco.

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