Does a Power of Attorney Need Both Signatures?

By Laura Payet

Does a Power of Attorney Need Both Signatures?

By Laura Payet

Most states do not require the power of attorney (POA) to have both signatures as only the principal is required to sign. A POA allows you to appoint someone to make decisions and act on your behalf, generally in the context of financial or medical matters. The person bestowing the authority is the principal, and the person appointed to act is the agent, sometimes called the attorney-in-fact.

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Financial and Medical Powers of Attorney

There are two basic types of powers of attorney: one that grants your agent authority in financial matters and one that grants authority in medical situations. With regard to financial authority, it can be either durable or nondurable. A durable POA remains in effect even if you become incapacitated. A nondurable one expires once you become incapacitated. You can also choose to have the authority take effect at a specific point in the future (referred to as a springing POA), after a doctor has declared you unable to make your own decisions.

The authority over financial decisions can be general or specific. Specific authority gives your agent the power to act for you in a certain situation or for a particular transaction. For example, you may need to appoint an agent to sign documents for you at a real estate closing if you can't be there yourself. General authority gives your agent the power to take any action that you yourself can legally take. This might include running your business, handling insurance or legal matters, paying bills and managing investments, or maintaining family financial obligations. You can limit or expand the authority you give in almost any way you choose.

A medical POA designates an agent to make medical decisions for you should you become unable to make them for yourself. This is often part of an estate plan, in conjunction with a living will or advanced directive. It should express your wishes for medical treatment in the event you become incapacitated due to illness or an accident. In that situation, your agent would have to abide by what is stated in the document when directing your medical care.

Signature Requirements

Whether your agent's signature must appear on the document depends on your state. For example, Vermont and California require the agent's signature only at the time the agent has to use the power. Consequently, you can create a valid POA with your signature alone, and your agent can add their signature in the future. In all states, the principal must sign the document and have it notarized. Some states also mandate two witnesses to the signature. As of 2018, some 23 states have adopted the Uniform Power of Attorney Act, which requires neither witnesses nor the agent's signature.

The advantage of having a POA in place is that, in the event you become unable to manage your own affairs, you have already selected a trusted individual to act in your place. If you become incapacitated without having drafted one, your spouse or family must petition a court to appoint a guardian or conservator for you.

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.