A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that allows an individual to name an agent who can act on their behalf should they become temporarily or permanently incapacitated. This authority may be broad or limited to a specific task or time. In Maryland, a person may draw up a POA if they need help managing their finances or health care.
Definition of Power of Attorney
A power of attorney (POA) allows an individual (known as "agent" or "attorney in fact") to make decisions on behalf of another person (known as "principal"), in the case of the principal's temporary or permanent disability or illness.
A principal gives the agent the legal authority to act in their behalf with limited or broad authority regarding their property, financial affairs or medical decisions.
Validity of a Maryland Power of Attorney
Depending on the type of POA a principal creates, it can be valid until the principal dies or until the agent carries out their final tasks. The principal can revoke a POA if they are once again able to make their own decisions, no longer trust their agent, or have found a more suitable replacement for that agent. A person creating a POA must:
- Be 18 or older.
- Intend to give authority to the individual designated in the document.
- Be mentally competent to understand the POA, the powers granted within it and the property affected by it.
General vs. Limited Power of Attorney
A POA is either general or limited. A general power of attorney gives the agent broad authority to act on behalf of the principal in personal or financial matters. Tasks include, but are not limited to, opening and closing bank accounts, accessing the principal's safe deposit boxes, undertaking real estate transactions, taking out loans, entering into contracts and making health care decisions.
A limited POA grants the agent specific powers as defined in the document or authority to act as agent for a limited time. A POA can be "durable," which means it takes effect immediately after signing, or "springing," which means it takes effect if and when the principal's incapacitation occurs.
Executing a POA Under Maryland Law
In the state of Maryland, a POA must be in writing and include the principal's signature. In the absence of the principal, another person can sign on the principal's behalf, as long as the principal is physically present and gives that person the authority to do so.
The principal must acknowledge the POA in the electronic or physical presence of a notary public. Two or more adult witnesses must also sign it in the electronic or physical presence of each other or of the principal.
Remote or Electronic Witnessing
For power of attorney documents that are electronic or witnessed remotely when the principal and witnesses sign, they must be signed in the physical or electronic presence of each other with a supervising attorney, who may also act as a witness. The principal must be a Maryland resident or physically located in the state.
Witnesses in the principal's electronic presence when signing must be residents of the U.S. and physically located in the country at the time. The principal and the witnesses must sign the same POA.
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.