A power of attorney (also known as POA) is a legal agreement used to allow one person to act on the behalf of another regarding his legal or financial matters. Power of attorney does not give the POA holder power over the principal. The principal still keeps his power, while allowing the POA holder to act when the principal is not available. A POA agreement can be useful for the elderly, deployed military members or incapacitated family members.
Decide what the POA agreement should accomplish, as this will help you decide how limited or broad it should be. Is the POA agreement meant to assure that you have legal and financial help during your old age? Do you only need it for the time you will be out of the country or during one particular business deal?
Choose a POA holder who you are confident will maintain your interests even when you are not in a position to express them. Many people choose close relatives, but you can also have a lawyer or business partner do it for you. You should have a frank conversation with your POA holder about your wishes and expectations from her so that she is clear on how she should use the power of attorney.
Have your lawyer create the POA papers, which essentially will have a written statement that you want to allow to your POA holder to act in your behalf on legal and financial matters. If there is are certain limitations to your POA agreement, such as time period or transaction limits, there will be clauses to specify each limitation.
Sign, date and have the POA papers notarized. Provide an original copy to the POA holder and keep a copy for your own records. You should notify all interested third parties of your power of attorney, including your bank, your other legal advisers and your close relatives. Be sure to provide a copy of the POA papers to each interested party for their records.
- Although it is possible to draw up POA papers without a lawyer, it may not be advisable. Several websites have do-it-yourself forms. If you write a statement that says that your POA holder has the right to act on your behalf and have it notarized, that is enough. However, anything other than POA papers for a general power of attorney are best completed by a lawyer. This is to avoid any loopholes or confusion in the language. A lawyer can also help you be sure that your best interests are being met by your POA papers.
- Power of attorney agreements usually become invalid if the principal becomes mentally incompetent or dies. Consider adding clauses to your POA papers to extend your power of attorney through these events if you feel it would be useful.