How to Grant a Power of Attorney

by David Carnes
A power of attorney is a powerful legal document.

A power of attorney is a powerful legal document.

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A power of attorney is a legal document in which a person, known as the principal, authorizes legal authority to another, known as the agent, of attorney-in-fact. The function of a power of attorney is to allow the agent to perform legal acts, such as signing a tax return or consenting to medical treatment, on behalf of the principal. Many institutions, such as banks and hospitals, offer fill-in-the-blanks power of attorney forms; some state government websites offer forms for free download. You may draft your own form if you can't find a fill-in-the-blank form that meets your particular needs.

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Step 1

Appoint your agent and secure his consent to the appointment. Despite the fact that an agent is often referred to as an "attorney-in-fact", your agent does not have to be an attorney. However, he must be at least 18 years old and mentally competent.

Step 2

Entitle the document "Power of Attorney," so that no dispute will arise concerning its purpose.

Step 3

Identify yourself as the principal in the first paragraph, using your full legal name and any other information, such as your address, needed to clearly identify you.

Step 4

Name and identify your agent; state that you are appointing him as your agent.

Step 5

List the legal acts that your agent is entitled to perform. This step requires some drafting skill. Unnecessarily broad language such as "the power to manage my finances" could give your agent unintended powers. Unnecessarily narrow language, on the other hand, might prevent your agent from carrying out the purpose you intend; for example, you might empower him to sign an automobile sales contract without empowering him to sign the title deed.

Step 6

Include any wording required by state law. New York and Pennsylvania, for example, require the word-for-word inclusion of certain language that is included within the text of their power of attorney statutes. Citations to the power of attorney laws for all 50 states and the District of Columbia are available online from several sources including state government websites.

Step 7

Contact an attorney and have him review the power of attorney.

Step 8

Execute the document in accordance with state law. You must sign the document; some states require your agent to sign it as well. All states require some form of authentication of any required signatures. Some states require notarization; some states require witnesses to sign.

Step 9

Copy the power of attorney document, hand over the original to your agent and keep the copy. Your agent must present the original document to third parties when performing legal acts on your behalf. If he is withdrawing money from your bank account, for example, he must present it to a bank official before he can complete the transaction, and the bank may want to make a copy of it for its records. Some states require a copy of the power of attorney to be filed with the court clerk of the local district court.