A power of attorney grants someone the legal ability to make decisions on behalf of another person. Virginia powers of attorney must conform with specific state laws. They can be conveyed in writing by anyone who is of sound mind. These documents allow the person conveying the decision-making ability, known as the principal, to name someone else, known as the agent or "attorney-in-fact," to make any decisions the principal would like him to make. The kind of powers granted depend on the situation and the desires of the principal.
The Agreement Must Be in Writing
A POA establishes a principal-agent relationship through a written document, so you must put the agreement in writing. The POA must state both your name and that of your agent, and it should clearly define the powers conveyed. You can access free Virginia POA forms on the Internet so you don't have to draft one from scratch.
When Does It Start and When Does It End?
Code of Virginia Section 11-9.1 states that powers of attorney terminate when the principal dies or becomes unable to make decisions. If you want your agent to continue to make decisions in the event you become incapacitated, you must clearly state this in your POA. Include a phrase like, "This power of attorney shall not terminate on disability of the principal." If you download a POA form, you can often just check off a box to this effect.
State when your POA takes effect. Unless it's otherwise stated in the document, a POA takes effect immediately when you sign it. If you want the POA to take effect at a later time or under certain conditions, this is referred to as a "springing" POA. Code of Virginia Section 11-9.4 states that you must make this clear in the document.
Sign the document. Virginia law imposes no requirement that your POA must be witnessed or notarized, but it does state that it must be signed by the principal, which is you. Your agent does not have to sign.
Keep in mind, however, that a POA might not be recognized by third parties unless it conforms with their unique requirements. This means that even if you draft a legally valid POA in Virginia, a third party may not accept it unless it is notarized or meets other requirements, so check with any third party your agent might have to interact with to make sure you meet its rules.
Talk to a Virginia attorney before attempting to draft your own power of attorney document, or take your POA to him for review before you sign it. You'll also want to make sure that what you've written accurately expresses your wishes – it says what you think it says.