How to Appoint a Power of Attorney

by Anna Assad
Your agent may sign financial papers for you.

Your agent may sign financial papers for you.

Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images

A power of attorney allows one person to act on behalf of another person in various matters, including health or finances. You may give another person, known as your agent or attorney-in-fact, power of attorney as long as you're mentally competent. You must draft a power of attorney document that meets the legal requirements in your state in order to give your agent authority.

Types

General and special powers of attorney for finances allow your agent to act on your behalf in financial matters. If you're giving your agent broad powers, you'll need a general power of attorney. If you want to limit her authority to specific matters, you'll need a special power of attorney. A healthcare power of attorney gives your agent the authority to make medical decisions for you if you can't. For example, if you're in a coma, your agent makes your treatment decisions.

Agent Selection

Your agent will handle sensitive financial or health matters for you. If your agent is incompetent, dishonest or doesn't take your directions seriously, she may cause you harm and not act in your best interests. When choosing an agent, choose someone who is responsible, reliable and able to make decisions. A close family member, such as your child or spouse, is often a good choice for your agent, but talk to the person to make sure she's ready to handle the responsibility first.

Powers

Once you've chosen an agent, you need to decide what type of powers you want to give her and when. A healthcare power of attorney is only effective if you're incapacitated, but a general power of attorney for finances may be durable or springing. A durable power of attorney comes into effect as soon as you sign it and remains effective, even if you become incapacitated. A springing power of attorney is only effective when the "springing" event you defined in the power of attorney itself, such as your incapacitation, occurs. You may give your agent any powers allowed under your state's laws. Financial areas include banking transactions, real estate sales, debt collection and gift-giving. The healthcare power of attorney allows your agent to make medical decisions for you in general, but you may limit her power. For example, you may include wording that forbids your agent from consenting to a specific treatment for you.

Drafting

Your power of attorney must comply with your state's laws. Laws for powers of attorney differ by state. In most cases, you must put the power of attorney in writing, sign the document and have your signature notarized. Your agent may have to sign as well. Even if your state doesn't require notarization, having your signature notarized eliminates any doubt about your signature's validity. If you're going to use a power of attorney for real estate, you'll need to file the document in the county land records. You may give a copy of your healthcare power of attorney to your doctor so your doctor is aware of your agent's authority in the event of your incapacitation.

Revocation

You may end your power of attorney for any reason. State laws differ on power of attorney revocation. Common revocation methods include destroying the document and putting the revocation in writing. You should notify your agent, as well as any third parties with whom your agent is involved, such as a bank, in writing that you're revoking authority.