A power of attorney allows one person, called the attorney-in-fact, to perform legal acts on behalf of another. It is normally used when the person granting the power, known as the principal, anticipates becoming unconscious, mentally incompetent or unable to communicate, and therefore unable to manage his own health care or financial affairs. Alabama's power of attorney law is based on the Uniform Power of Attorney Act. Only one form is necessary to authorize power of attorney in Alabama.
In Alabama, a power of attorney form must be in writing. It must identify the principal and the attorney-in-fact by name and with sufficient clarity to prevent these parties from being confused with others. It must detail the powers that are delegated to the attorney-in-fact, and it must be signed by the principal and properly executed. Although you must be at least 18 years old and mentally sound to serve as an attorney-in-fact, you do not have to be an attorney.
A power of attorney is presumed valid even while the principal is incompetent -- mentally incompetent, unconscious or unable to communicate -- unless the power of attorney specifically states otherwise using the language "This power of attorney shall not be affected by disability, incompetency, or incapacity of the principal." If the power of attorney is designed to be effective only while the principal is incompetent, the power of attorney form must state, "This power of attorney shall become effective upon the incapacity, incompetence or disability of the principal."
To draft an effective power of attorney, you must chart a middle course between overly restrictive and overly broad language. For example, if you want to authorize your attorney-in-fact to sell your car while you are living overseas, it is not enough to authorize him to sign a purchase agreement on your behalf -- you must also authorize him to transfer title to your car. On the other hand, overly broad language could cause problems. If, for example, you want your attorney-in-fact to choose among alternative medical treatment options if you become incompetent, authorizing him to "make medical decisions on my behalf" might be interpreted to include the power to authorize the withdrawal of life-sustaining medical treatment.
A power of attorney must be signed to be valid, and the principal must be competent at the time he signs. In Alabama, a power of attorney should be signed by the principal in the presence of a notary public to avoid disputes about the validity of the signature. If the principal cannot sign, he may authorize another person to do so, but he must be present and conscious while the other person signs the document.
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