A power of attorney is a legal document in which you give someone else the authority to act on your behalf. The person you grant authority to is referred to as your agent, and you are referred to as the principal. Though each state’s laws provide rules for powers of attorney created in that state, it could get confusing if you had to create a separate document for each state in which you wish to authorize an agent. Therefore, most states accept powers of attorney created under another state’s laws, particularly if they meet the new state's requirements.
Powers of Attorney
States all recognize varying types of powers of attorney. Special powers of attorney grant permission for your agent to perform a specific task or a small group of tasks, such as accessing one bank account on your behalf. General powers of attorney give an agent much broader authority, such as the authority to manage all your financial affairs. Regardless of the document’s subject matter, a durable power of attorney continues on in the event that you become incapacitated, while a non-durable power of attorney terminates as soon as you become mentally incapacitated.
State laws determine the requirements of a valid power of attorney. The specific requirements vary, but most states require that powers of attorney be witnessed by two disinterested witnesses and notarized. However, not all states require these formalities for all powers of attorney. For example, New York durable powers of attorney must be notarized but do not require witness signatures unless the power of attorney grants the agent the authority to give gifts over $500. In contrast, Illinois requires witnesses and a notary for a power of attorney that grants authority over property regardless of whether that document authorizes the agent to give gifts.
Acceptance Among States
Though states have their own requirements, state laws generally recognize powers of attorney that were validly created in another state or that meet the state’s own requirements. For example, if you create a power of attorney in a state that requires two witness signatures but no notary, it may be accepted in a state that requires notarization simply because it was validly created under the original state’s laws. However, states have the ability to refuse to recognize powers of attorney created in other states, so you should check the laws of any state in which your agent may need to use the document. You may also wish to have your power of attorney witnessed and notarized, even if your state does not require such formalities, to increase the likelihood that your document will be recognized by a more formal state.
Getting a New Document
Though many powers of attorney are recognized in other states, it may be a good idea to get a new power of attorney when you move to a new state. For example, Connecticut law does recognize powers of attorney to convey real estate unless the power of attorney is signed by two witnesses and notarized, even if the previous state did not require such formalities. A company with which you hope to do business may not feel comfortable accepting a power of attorney that comes from another state even if it is technically valid in the company's state. It can be especially important to get a new medical power of attorney, since different states define medical terms differently: doctors may not know how to interpret a power of attorney made in a state with different definitions.