How to Fill Out a General Power of Attorney

By Charlie Rosedale
You may use a preprinted general power of attorney or draft one yourself.

signing the wedding contract image by Lars Christensen from Fotolia.com

A general power of attorney is a document used to grant someone broad authority to act on your behalf in legal matters. You, the "principal", may place limits on the scope and duration of the authority you grant to the "agent" or "attorney-in-fact" when filling out the general power of attorney form. You must be an adult of sound mind to assign a general power of attorney. The forms vary by state, but they all cover the same important elements.

Decide whether you need a durable or springing general power of attorney. A "durable" power of attorney takes effect immediately upon signing and it lasts even if you become incapacitated at a later date. Nondurable powers of attorney end if you become incapacitated. A "springing" power of attorney takes effect after an event that you specify such as after a doctor declares you disabled and no longer competent to handle your business and personal affairs.

Fill in your name and address in the line labeled "principal." Fill in the name and address of the person to whom you wish to extend the power in the line labeled "agent" or "attorney-in-fact."

Decide whether you want to place limits on the agent's power. This section may be preprinted with language that assumes that you wish your agent to have all powers allowed by law. Other forms allow you to place you initials next to items such as "personal and family maintenance" or "Stock and bond transactions," indicating your desire to grant those powers. You may also write special instructions to grant extra powers or to exclude specific powers.

Fill in the name and address of a second agent that you wish to act in case the first agent becomes incapacitated. You may also indicate that you want both agents to make decisions together keeping in mind that this may lead to conflicts between agents. You are not required to appoint a second agent.

Indicate a specific date on which the general power of attorney takes effect If you do not wish it to take effect immediately. You may also indicate a specific date on which the power ends.

Decide whether you wish your agent to receive compensation. Agents are not generally compensated unless they are required to run a business or have other strenuous duties. You must authorize compensation for you agent. Alternatively you may appoint a special "gift agent" who is authorized in the limited capacity of being able to make gifts from your property to your main agent.

Sign and date the form. Some states require that the form be notarized in the presence of witnesses. These forms have sections to be filed out by the notary and places for witnesses to sign. You may also notarize a general power of attorney form that does not include this section. Notarized forms are required if you want your agent to manage your real estate.

About the Author

Charlie Rosedale has worked in online design and publishing since 2001. She also writes an anthropology and archaeology blog. Rosedale obtained a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of New Orleans and a postgraduate diploma in law from the College of Law in London.

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