The ability to grant power of attorney is important in many situations. It can facilitate the use of a professional, such as a stock broker or real estate agent, or give a person the peace of mind that someone they trust will make medical decisions for them if something happens. Creating a power of attorney can be as simple as finding the correct form and executing it. Examples of a power of attorney form are not difficult to find, but the challenge, however, often lies in understanding the forms enough to identify the correct one.
A Power of Attorney (POA) is a document that authorizes another individual (the attorney-in-fact) to act as an agent on behalf of the person executing the document (called the principal). Because these documents are quite common, it's possible to create one simply without consulting an attorney. The forms available for purchase or download provide a template for generic POA documents.
Powers of Attorney come in several types to meet the needs and wishes of the principal. It's crucial that the proper form type is used. If the intent is to grant general authority over a wide range of issues, a general power of attorney form can be used. If instead, the authority is granted for only a specific context or with specific instructions, a limited POA form is appropriate. A durable POA is the only type that persists if you become incapacitated by accident or illness. A medical power of attorney is a type of durable POA used to give someone the power to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to communicate.
A major factor to consider when drafting a power of attorney is whether or not it will be enforceable. The format and scope of a valid POA is determined by state laws, and execution requirements vary as well. Most states also require two or three witnesses to sign the document, and others also require notarization. Concerns over enforceability are the main reason to use power of attorney forms, examples of which are available in the Additional Resources section below.
The best way to ensure enforceability is to use a statutory form. These are templates that conform to the relevant statutes and allow the principle to add or remove authorizations to their attorney-in-fact. State specific forms also include the appropriate number of lines for witness signatures and notary affirmations.
An increasingly popular way to draft basic legal documents, such as the POA, is through websites featuring a document wizard. Through a series of interview-style questions, the principal provides all the relevant information about their intent for the document. The wizard then generates the appropriate, state-specific document (for a fee), but does not absolutely ensure its enforceability. At an additional charge, the site will connect the principal to a law firm for review of the document.