Can Married People Share the Same Power of Attorney Form?

By Laura Payet

Can Married People Share the Same Power of Attorney Form?

By Laura Payet

A power of attorney is a legal document in which one individual, called the principal, grants another individual, called the agent or attorney-in-fact, the power to take certain actions on the principal's behalf. State law governs the form a power of attorney must take and the formalities the parties must follow in executing one. Married people cannot share the same form because the law contemplates, expressly in some states and implicitly in others, that the ability to execute a power of attorney is limited to one individual at a time.

Businesswoman speaking with a man

Power of Attorney Basics

A power of attorney can be general, granting the agent broad powers, or limited in scope to particular transactions or events. It can take effect immediately, on a future date, or when a future specific occurrence takes place. By law, a power of attorney terminates when the principal becomes incapacitated unless it is made durable by the inclusion of specific language. You can revoke a power of attorney at any time, and all powers of attorney end when the principal passes away.

When you execute a power of attorney, your designated agent can take any action it permits. If the power of attorney is general, then your agent can take any action that you could also take, such as opening or closing bank accounts, making investment decisions, writing checks, and selling property. Members of the military often find it necessary to give a general power of attorney to their spouses while they are deployed. A limited power of attorney, sometimes called a special power of attorney, empowers the agent to take action under specific limitations. For example, you might designate an agent to handle a real estate transaction for you or to manage your finances while you are on an extended vacation. You may also want to designate an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf if the time comes when you cannot do it yourself. A medical power of attorney should be separate from a financial one.

Granting someone power of attorney can, depending on how the document is tailored, give your agent expansive authority to make financial or medical decisions for you. To diminish fears that a principal might have been coaxed or coerced to grant such power to an agent, states have particular forms to be followed and formalities to be observed before a power of attorney can be valid. In most states, the principal must sign a power of attorney before witnesses and have their signature notarized. Some states, such as Alabama, require a power of attorney to be recorded with the county court to be valid.

Spouses and Powers of Attorney

Sharing a power of attorney with your spouse can cause confusion and ambiguity where there ought to be clarity. With respect to medical power of attorney, spouses may not have the same views about end-of-life decisions or about who should make them. Requiring separate powers of attorney prevents one spouse's wishes from overpowering the other's and avoids confusion over what would happen if one spouse wants to revoke a shared power of attorney or passes away.

Couples often execute separate financial and medical durable powers of attorney as part of a comprehensive estate plan. Although spouses cannot share a power of attorney form, many spouses choose to grant each other these powers. You and your spouse can prepare and execute these forms at the same time, but each of you needs to have your own separate medical and financial power of attorney forms.

The law dictates that only one person can execute a power of attorney, so married couples cannot share one. Still, power of attorney forms and formalities can be different in every state, and you want to be sure to follow them thoughtfully and properly because a power of attorney conveys important rights to act on your behalf.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

Ready to appoint a power of attorney?

Get started now