Can a Power of Attorney Accept Checks?

By Ronna L. DeLoe, Esq.

Can a Power of Attorney Accept Checks?

By Ronna L. DeLoe, Esq.

A power of attorney (POA) can accept checks if the person drafting the document (known as the principal) agrees to give the third party (referred to as the agent or attorney-in-fact) such authority. If you are the financial power of attorney, you're a representative of the person appointing you, and you're responsible for acting in that person's best interests.

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Duties of a Power of Attorney

The POA can perform a specific job or many jobs, depending on what the document specifically states. If it is limited, then the agent can only do what the principal has stated. Such limitations might be overseeing a real estate transaction or having limited authority if the principal is out of the country for a few months.

If the POA is general in scope, then the agent can perform various functions so long as it involves the principal's finances. For example, you cannot make medical decisions absent a healthcare power of attorney. You also cannot:

  • Vote on behalf of the principal
  • Change their will
  • Continue working for the principal after their death
  • Give authority to someone else
  • Act in any manner that is not allowed
  • Act in a way that is contrary to the principal's best interests

Authority is considered nondurable if it ends upon the principal's incompetence. Likewise, a durable POA continues in the event the principal is unable to make competent financial decisions, or physical limitations prevent them from managing their own finances.

Ability to Accept Checks

If you have limited authority for performing one transaction, such as filing the principal's taxes, then you can't accept, deposit, or cash checks. If you have general power, your duties will include the ability to accept, deposit, and cash checks. If you're depositing or cashing a check in a bank, you must show the bank the appropriate document. You are also required to sign the principal's check in either of the following ways:

  • Your name, as agent or attorney-in-fact for the principal (using the principal's name), under a POA
  • The principal's name, by you (using your name), as agent or attorney-in-fact under a POA

The ability to accept and cash checks doesn't include all checks, but it does include checks from family, friends, businesses, doctors, healthcare companies, brokerage firms, and other similar types of businesses. This does not, however, include the ability to handle IRS checks or Social Security checks. The IRS and Social Security Administration require other forms in addition to the applicable document.

Accepting IRS Checks

The principal may not let you accept IRS checks on their behalf. They may have to file one or more separate forms. The Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative (Form 2848) gives you the power to represent the principal before the IRS. However, Form 2848 specifically states that the principal can choose to give you the power to receive the refund, but not to cash or endorse it.

Accepting Social Security Checks

The Social Security Administration (SSA) Office will not accept a POA. You'll have to qualify as a "representative payee" in order to cash checks from the SSA. You must file a Request to Be Selected as Payee (Form SSA-11-BK). You have to indicate why the principal needs you to do this for them, and what limitations the principal has. The SSA will interview you to determine if you qualify as a representative payee, and you must give an accounting to them every year about the principal's Social Security checks.

Under many powers of attorney, the agent can cash and deposit checks just by showing the document to the bank. While there are special rules for the IRS and the SSA, you can cash and deposit these checks by setting up a joint account for IRS purposes and by qualifying as a representative payee for Social Security purposes. Make sure to bring your POA document with you to the bank at all times. Putting the right type of authority in place is critical to handling your financial affairs.

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.