Under certain circumstances you may need to authorize someone else to perform legal acts on your behalf. Under these circumstances, you may execute a power of attorney in favor of an agent -- also known as an "attorney-in-fact." "Fill in the blanks" power of attorney forms are available from banks and hospitals and on state government websites. While you can draft your own power of attorney, a form can serve as a guide for what to include and how to word your POA to avoid legal risks.
Download a "fill in the blanks" power of attorney form on the website of your state government. Some states require you to use their forms, while others offer them as a convenience.
Appoint an agent, explain what you want him to do and obtain his consent. Choose wisely, because your agent will have the power to make decisions on your behalf and, depending on the nature of the powers that you grant, bind you to legal obligations. List your full name and address and the full name and address of your agent on the form.
Compose a statement of the authority detailing the powers you wish to grant your agent. Keep re-drafting it until you get the wording right. If your grant of authority is too broad ("manage my financial affairs"), you risk vesting your agent with unintended authority. If your grant is too narrow, your agent may lack the authority to accomplish what you intended. Most forms have an area where you insert your own wording, however, some pre-printed forms require you to check boxes.
Add beginning and ending dates for your agent's authority. In some states, a power of attorney automatically becomes effective the moment you sign it, and instead of an ending date, your power of attorney may expire upon the occurrence of an event , like your mental incapacity or inability to communicate due to illness.
Sign and date the form in the presence of a notary public, have your agent do the same and have the notary public sign and seal the document. Some states require two witnesses to sign the form, so read the instructions carefully.
Tips & Warnings
- If you decide to draft your own form, entitle it "Power of Attorney," identify yourself, state that you are mentally competent, state that you "hereby grant the following powers to [name and address of your agent]," list the powers that you are granting. and list the starting and ending dates of your agent's authority. Since state laws differ slightly on the required content of a power of attorney form, it is best to use a pre-printed form that has already been drafted in accordance with state law.
References & Resources
- Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images