How to Activate a Power of Attorney

by Marie Murdock

    A power of attorney allows a person to sign legal documents and act on your behalf in transactions that you would ordinarily only be able to handle yourself. Those transactions may be very broad in nature, allowing that person to step into your shoes to handle all your affairs, or they may be very specific, only allowing that person to perform specified transactions that, for various reasons, you may be unavailable to perform yourself.

    Step 1

    Contact an attorney to draft a power of attorney or prepare your own power of attorney if you are capable and have the knowledge to do so. As the principal, or the person granting the power of attorney to another, you should sign the document in the presence of a notary public who will properly notarize your signature. Although not all circumstances require notarization, a business, particularly one dealing in real estate, may refuse to rely on a power of attorney that is not notarized.

    Step 2

    Deliver the power of attorney to your attorney-in-fact -- the person authorized to act on your behalf. Even though the power of attorney becomes effective upon proper signing or upon some date or event that may be specified in the document, it cannot be used by your attorney-in-fact until she has the original, or at least a certified or other qualifying copy, in her possession to present to other parties.

    Step 3

    Present a copy of your power of attorney, or instruct your attorney in fact to present a copy, anywhere she has the power to sign for you. After proving her authority by presenting a copy of the power of attorney, your attorney-in-fact will normally be required to sign your name as well as her own. The signed document should contain language stating that she is signing on your behalf.

    Tips & Warnings

    • Recording your power of attorney in the real property records office in your home county will allow you to obtain a court certified copy in the event you cannot locate your original.
    • State laws may vary regarding requirements for powers of attorney. Contact an attorney in your state for advice prior to preparing one.
    • Some powers of attorney are written to only become valid upon the physical or mental incompetency of the principal.
    • A power of attorney acquired by force or coercion or signed by someone who is mentally incompetent may be declared invalid, and all documents signed using it may be declared null and void.

    About the Author

    Marie Murdock has been employed in the legal and title insurance industries for over 25 years. Murdock was first published in print in 1979 and has been writing online articles since mid-2010. Her articles have appeared on LegalZoom and various other websites.

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