Power of Attorney & How to Sign Legal Documents

By Marie Murdock

A power of attorney enables one person to sign legal documents or perform actions on behalf of another. Powers of attorney may be broad, granting almost unlimited authority, or they may be very limited and specific to a particular transaction. They may be created for convenience or in anticipation of a future debility.

A power of attorney enables one person to sign legal documents or perform actions on behalf of another. Powers of attorney may be broad, granting almost unlimited authority, or they may be very limited and specific to a particular transaction. They may be created for convenience or in anticipation of a future debility.

Principal

The person who grants the authority by making the power of attorney is the principal. His is the only signature required on the power-of-attorney document in order for it to be effective. The principal must be an adult and of sound mind when the power of attorney is created.

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Attorney-in-Fact

The person appointed to act on behalf of the principal is referred to as the attorney-in-fact, although he need not be an actual attorney. An attorney-in-fact is usually a friend or trusted family member who the principal feels has his best interests at heart.

Signing Authority

When a power of attorney becomes effective, the attorney-in-fact may sign legal documents on behalf of the principal, subject to acceptance by the person or entity relying on its authority. A power of attorney may become effective immediately upon the attorney-in-fact receiving a signed copy, or it may state that it becomes effective only when the principal becomes mentally incompetent. A power of attorney that becomes effective immediately may also be durable, which means that it continues in effect even if the principal later becomes mentally incompetent. The authority granted under a power of attorney ceases upon its being revoked in writing by the principal and proper notice of the revocation being given, or upon the death of the principal. At that point, the attorney-in-fact may no longer sign legal documents on behalf of the principal.

Notary Acknowledgment

The form of a notary acknowledgment may vary depending on the type of document being signed. A brief acknowledgment verifying that a document was signed in the presence of the notary may be sufficient for some transactions, while powers of attorney to be recorded or used in real estate transactions may require a more detailed acknowledgment that complies with state-specific guidelines. An attorney or title company may refuse to rely on a power of attorney that doesn’t comply. The attorney-in-fact will generally be required to sign both his and the principal’s names to any conveyance document, even though the notary acknowledgment may state that his name only is subscribed as attorney-in-fact for the principal. The notary acknowledgment may further be required to state that the attorney-in-fact is signing with proper authority.

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Power of Attorney for Real Estate Transactions in Florida

References

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How to Obtain Power of Attorney

You may face circumstances that require you to perform legal acts, such as withdrawing money from a bank account or consenting to medical treatment, on behalf of another person, known as the principal, who cannot perform these acts himself due to disability or other adverse circumstance. A valid power of attorney will allow you to perform these acts as agent for the principal without legal liability. Hospitals and banks often offer standardized power of attorney forms that have been drafted in accordance with state law. Otherwise, you may draft the appropriate form yourself.

Does a Power of Attorney Require Notarization?

Notarizing a legal document, such as a power of attorney, involves using the services of a notary public to authenticate the identity of the person signing the document and to witness the document being signed. The purpose of notarizing a legal document is to deter fraud and assure others the signature on the document is genuine. Each state has its own laws regarding a power of attorney; whether a power of attorney must be notarized depends on the state where the power of attorney is signed and the purpose of the power of attorney.

Can You Use Power of Attorney When a Person Is Alive?

A power of attorney is a document executed by someone referred to as a principal authorizing another person known as an agent or attorney-in-fact to act for her in performing certain actions or managing her affairs. Not only may you, as agent, use a power of attorney when the principal is alive, but you should not attempt to use one after she is deceased. Powers of attorney terminate upon the principal's death. In contrast, a court-appointed executor, often referred to as a personal representative, usually takes charge of legal and financial matters for the estate of someone who dies.

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