A power of attorney is a document by which a person, known as the principal, appoints another person, known as the attorney-in-fact, to act on her behalf to perform certain acts or sign documents. Different states may have different requirements as to the method of execution of a legally-binding power of attorney. In Texas, not all types of powers of attorney have to be notarized.
Under Texas statutes, a medical power of attorney allows an agent or attorney-in-fact to make healthcare decisions on behalf of the principal, once the principal is declared incompetent by an attending physician. To become effective, the power of attorney must have been executed when the principal was competent to sign legal documents and witnessed by two qualifying witnesses. At least one of the witnesses may not be a relative, health care provider or person interested in the estate of the principal. A medical power of attorney does not, however, have to be notarized.
A statutory durable power of attorney is often general, granting the attorney-in-fact broad powers to perform most any act or sign most any document on behalf of the principal. The durable language in this type of power of attorney makes it effective even after the subsequent disability or mental incompetence of the principal. As the impact of using this document can be far-reaching, Texas code requires it to be notarized.
Real Estate Transactions
A power of attorney may be presented in a real estate closing when the principal is unavailable to sign documents such as a deed or mortgage. Generally, title insurance underwriters in Texas will require that any power of attorney used to execute real estate conveyances be notarized and recorded, regardless of whether it is general or specific to the transaction in question.
Often a power of attorney will be used to allow someone other than the vehicle owner to register a vehicle, convey it to someone else or get it out of impound. Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Form VTR-271 entitled “Power of Attorney to Transfer Motor Vehicle” is available as a fillable form on the txdmv.gov website. This fillable form does not provide, on its face, for notarization. According to the Texas Towing & Storage Association’s website, however, an impounded vehicle will be released to someone who, in addition to meeting other criteria, presents a “notarized power of attorney.” Contact the DMV or other organization ahead of time when dealing with a power of attorney regarding a motor vehicle to determine the organization’s requirements.