You obtain power of attorney when one person, known as the principal, delegates to you the power to perform binding legal acts on his behalf, such as managing finances or making medical treatment decisions. In this capacity, you are known as the principal's attorney-in-fact, although you don't have to be an attorney to act in this capacity. In Maryland, the General and Limited Power of Attorney Act, enacted in October 2010, governs the power of attorney.
Determine the nature of the powers that the principal will grant you. Possible powers to be granted fall into two broad categories: financial and health care. Maryland law requires separate documents for each of these two types of powers of attorney. A single document that purports to grant both types is not legally valid.
Select the statutory form that you wish to use. The Personal Financial Power of Attorney grants you broad powers, while the Limited Power of Attorney grants you more specific powers for financial matters. The statutory form for a health care power of attorney is called an advance directive in Maryland.
Complete the appropriate statutory form. The form identifies both the principal and agent; the principal can select a backup agent if desired. The form lists specific powers granted to you. The forms also allow the principal to limit your authority in specific ways. The forms include space to add specific powers and limitations not listed on the form.
Execute the power of attorney by procuring the principal's signature on the power of attorney after reading it carefully. The principal's signature must be acknowledged by a notary public and witnessed by two adults. The witnesses must acknowledge in the document that they witnessed the principal sign it, and sign the document in the presence of each other and in the presence of the principal. You may include the witnesses' addresses and phone numbers on the document, although this is not legally required.
Tips & Warnings
- You are not required to use a statutory form power of attorney. However, use of a statutory form protects you against legal errors that might invalidate the power of attorney. Third parties are generally required to honor a statutory power of attorney or face civil liability. However, if powers or limitations are added to the power of attorney that are not listed in the form, this might allow a third party to refuse to honor it without liability.
- If the principal is already unconscious, mentally incapacitated or unable to communicate, he may not execute a power of attorney.
References & Resources
- FindLaw: Maryland Durable Power of Attorney Laws
- The Maryland State Bar Association, Inc.: 2010 Maryland General and Limited Power of Attorney Act
- Maryland Association of CPAs: Maryland’s new General and Limited Power of Attorney Act: What You Should Know
- Maryland Attorney General: Maryland Advance Directive: Planning for Future Health Care Decisions
- Maryland Attorney General: Maryland Statutory Form Personal Financial Power of Attorney
- Maryland General Assembly: Maryland Statutory Form Limited Power of Attorney
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