A power of attorney is an instrument that a person uses to grant authority to an agent to act on his or her behalf. The two different types of instruments are health care and financial powers of attorneys. A third party preparing to transact business or take action in reliance on a power of attorney needs to verify who really does have authority under such an instrument to make decisions for another person.
View the Original Power of Attorney
Request to see the original power of attorney document. A duly authorized agent named in a power of attorney should have the original instrument in his or her possession. If you are being asked to take action by an individual contending he or she is an agent authorized to make decisions through a power of attorney, you must review the original instrument.
Verify the Authenticity of the Power of Attorney
Verify the authenticity of the power of attorney document presented to you. In many states, a power of attorney must be notarized. The presence of a notary's stamp and signature is usually enough evidence that the power is a legitimate document. If you're concerned, run an internet search for the notary and ask him or her to verify that the stamp on the document is the notary's official seal. Contacting witnesses is another avenue to explore. Often, powers of attorney bear the signature of an independent witness who watched the principal sign the power. See if you can contact the witness – the address should be written beneath the witness's signature – and ask if she remembers attending the signing.
Check County Records
Check the power of attorney records at the register or recorder of deeds in the county where the individual who created the instrument resides. In some states a power of attorney can be filed with the register or recorder of deeds. However, this is not the common practice today.
Contact the Person who Granted the Power of Attorney
Contact the individual named as the grantor in the power of attorney. The grantor is the individual who drafted and executed the power of attorney. Though this might seem to defeat the purpose of designating an agent to act on behalf of a grantor via a power of attorney, the typical grantor appreciates a third party taking the time to confirm the authenticity of a power of attorney.
If a power of attorney does not appear authentic to you, and you cannot independently verify its authenticity, do not transact business with the purported agent. If the power of attorney turns out to be fraudulent, you can be held liable for any losses sustained by the alleged grantor through the transaction.