Does a Power of Attorney Require Notarization?

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

Does a Power of Attorney Require Notarization?

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

Each state sets its own rules for creating a valid power of attorney, and each has a different set of requirements for validating the power of attorney. Some require notarization, but others do not.

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Signature Verification for a Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document that grants one person, called the agent, the authority to act on behalf of another person, called the principal. The agent can effectively step into the shoes of the principal and then take any action the principal could take regarding the principal's finances. For example, a power of attorney can open, close, make deposits to, and make withdrawals from the principal's bank accounts.

Because a power of attorney grants the agent a significant amount of power, states want to prevent the drafting of fraudulent powers of attorney. One way states help prevent this is to require the verification of the principal's signature in some way: by witnesses, a notary public, or in some cases, both. The role of each is to verify that the principal did sign the power of attorney and that they signed the document voluntarily. For this reason, it is important that the notary or witnesses do not sign until after the principal signs.

Notary Public Basics

A notary public is a state-appointed public official responsible for helping deter document fraud. Proper notarization of a document has three parts.

  1. The notary ensures the signer is who they say they are and is competent to sign the document. The notary usually checks the signer's identification to verify their identity.
  2. The notary logs the document in their journal.
  3. The notary acknowledges the document by stamping it with their notary public seal and signing it.

Notary and Witness Requirements

The following are the notary and witness requirements for general powers of attorney for each state. If the parties involved do not follow these rules, the power of attorney is not valid. Different rules may apply for specialized powers of attorney such as healthcare directives.

  • Two witnesses, no notary. The following states require two or more witnesses to sign the power of attorney but do not require notarization of the document: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
  • Two witnesses or a notary. The following states generally require two witnesses but allow a notary to sign instead of the witnesses: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming.
  • Two witnesses and a notary. The following states require two witnesses and a notary to sign: Florida, North Carolina, Iowa, Kansas, and Kentucky.
  • Other signing requirements. New Mexico requires only a notary to sign. Utah requires only one witness.

States can change their signature verification requirements for powers of attorney, so it is important to check state law for changes before signing a power of attorney.

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.

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