When you're endorsing a check as a power of attorney, you are signing as the agent for the person to whom the check is issued. If that person is named Jane Jones, and your name is Laura Garcia, you can use either of these formats to endorse the check:
- Jane Jones by Laura Garcia under POA, or
- Laura Garcia, attorney-in-fact for Jane Jones
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney, or POA, is a legal document in which the person signing the POA gives someone else authority to act as their agent. In the above example, Jane Jones signed a POA document giving Laura Garcia legal authority to act for her in banking matters.
It is entirely up to the person creating the POA document to determine its duration and scope. Jane can state in the written POA that the agent's authority is temporary, effective only for the time she is on vacation, or she can say that it lasts for a longer period – even indefinitely. She can also limit Laura's authority to a specific financial matter, such as simply endorsing one check. Jane could also make the power of attorney broader or even unlimited.
In this example, Laura is the agent under a POA and she can be called the attorney-in-fact. Laura is acting as agent for Jane when she endorses the check made out to Jane.
Using a POA
When would someone ask an agent under a POA to endorse a check? The simple answer is: any time it is the most practical or convenient way to proceed.
In the example above, Jane asked Laura to be her agent and to endorse her check. Perhaps Jane knew she would be out of town when her paycheck arrived and needed the check in her bank to cover her rent payment. Or, perhaps Laura was Jane's realtor, and Jane asked her to endorse the escrow check as a convenience.
People also use POAs to authorize a family member or trusted friend to handle their affairs if they are currently no longer able to handle them. The could be a short-term disability, like being out of town or in hospital, or a permanent authorization, like for mental incompetence. A person must be mentally competent initially to make a POA, but the POA document can specify that the authority applies to any future period when the maker becomes incompetent.
Signing as a Power of Attorney
When you endorse a check for someone as their attorney-in-fact, you must make clear that you are signing as an agent. To do this, you can use one of two procedures. You can sign the person's name first, then follow it with "by [your name] under POA." Or, you can sign your own name first, then identify yourself as "attorney-in-fact for [the person's name for whom you are attorney-in-fact.] According to the American Bar Association, either method is just fine.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.