How to Get Power of Attorney in Tennessee

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A power of attorney, or POA, is a legal document that gives a person the ability to make decisions for someone who is unable to do so themselves due to incapacitation.

Tennessee residents can create a valid POA on their own or with the help of an attorney as long as they meet the state’s requirements when drafting it, which include being of sound mind. Power of attorney forms for finances and medical care can be found online.

What Is a Power of Attorney?

All states accept POAs, but the rules and requirements may differ in each. What a POA does is essentially the same – it gives an individual the power to act on behalf of another person. This power may be limited in scope or be far reaching; temporary or permanent. It may take effect immediately or when a future event occurs, such as a mental or physical disability.

The person appointed to act on the principal's behalf in a POA is known as the "agent" or "attorney-in-fact." With a valid POA, the agent can take any action permitted by the document. Sometimes the agent will need to present the physical power of attorney document to invoke their power, for example when doing business with a bank or other financial institution.

Types of Powers of Attorney Under Tennessee Law

In Tennessee, when estate planning, a principal may create a general POA allowing an agent to handle any number of legal decisions on their behalf.

Two other types of POAs are also common:

  • Financial POA‌ — (durable general power of attorney) appoints an agent to handle only the principal’s business or financial interests.
  • Medical POA‌ — (durable power of attorney for healthcare) appoints someone to make healthcare decisions on their behalf.

Tennessee allows a medical power of attorney to be combined with a living will (in which the principal outlines what they want for healthcare treatment in the future) should they become incapacitated. This is known as an advanced health care directive.

A POA can specify the exact powers being granted to the agent. For example, a financial power of attorney can direct the agent to pay bills on behalf of the principal. Under a medical POA, the agent can make decisions specifically about the principal’s upcoming surgery or home health care.

Tennessee Durable Power of Attorney vs. Springing Power of Attorney

A durable POA becomes valid when it is signed and remains so until the principal either revokes it or dies. It continues the relationship beyond the principal's incapacity until their death.

A springing POA goes into effect only after a specific event, such as the principal’s mental or physical incapacitation. Springing POAs are more complex because the determination process for incapacitation and when the agent’s power should be granted are not as straightforward. As a result, they are not as common as durable POAs.

Medical POA Requirements in Tennessee

A durable healthcare power of attorney in Tennessee must adhere to certain requirements to be valid. It must:

  • Specifically authorize the agent (and a successor or alternate agent) to make medical decisions on behalf of the principal.
  • Contain the date of execution.
  • Be in writing.
  • Be signed by the principal, and their signature must either be attested by a notary or by two witnesses.

The two witnesses must be competent adults and cannot be the agent. At least one witness cannot be related to the principal by blood, marriage or adoption. Witnesses cannot be entitled to any portion of the principal’s estate upon their death or by any will or codicil the principal makes. The medical POA will include an attestation clause stating that the witnesses have complied with these requirements.

Financial POA Requirements in Tennessee

A financial POA states the name of the principal, their county of residence, the name of their selected agent, and a successor or alternate agent.

There are no specific rules regarding the signing of a financial POA, although it is recommended that the same requirements be used as for the signatures on a healthcare POA. Some financial institutions will not accept a POA unless it is notarized.

Revoking a Financial POA in Tennessee

The majority of POAs are revocable and can be changed or modified by the principal at any time. For example, the principal may wish to revoke a financial POA if:

  • The agent has a physical or mental disability.
  • They have lost trust in their agent to make financial decisions.
  • The agent moves out of the area.

When revoking a financial POA, the principal should do so in writing and record the document at the Register of Deeds Office in their area. They should also send a copy of the revocation to the former agent and any financial institutions via certified mail.

The principal can also revoke a POA by simply drafting a new one and appointing a new agent, which immediately removes the old agent’s authority. The new POA should have a general provision that revokes a previous agent’s power.

Revoking a Healthcare POA in Tennessee

The principal may also wish to revoke a medical POA if:

  • The agent has a physical or mental disability.
  • They have lost trust in their agent.
  • The agent moves out of the area.

The principle can revoke a healthcare POA by notifying the agent orally or in writing of the revocation of their appointment or authority. The principal may also notify healthcare providers orally or in writing that the POA has been revoked. The provider will note the revocation in the principal's medical records.

A new medical POA revokes any prior medical POA. Unless the medical POA expressly states otherwise, if the principal’s marriage is annulled or dissolved, this revokes the former spouse’s designation as the agent.

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