How to Create Power of Attorney Forms

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

How to Create Power of Attorney Forms

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

Giving someone power of attorney allows them to act on your behalf during your lifetime. It is a common tool used for estate planning, although its uses are not limited to the estate planning context. When creating this type of legal documentation, you are considered the principal, and the person you grant powers to is called your agent (or attorney-in-fact).

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To be valid, your POA must meet your state's legal requirements, so it is important to understand them before creating it. Follow these steps when drafting your power of attorney documentation.

1. Determine who should serve as your agent.

When you create a POA, you name at least one agent who can act on your behalf under the document's authority. If you draft it for estate planning purposes, they will likely have broad authority to do almost anything you could do from a financial standpoint. So, consider your options carefully before naming someone in that role.

You should be confident that the person you choose will act according to your wishes and in your best interest. Consider also the person's ability to manage your finances, pay your bills, and interact with your financial professionals and companies. You cannot obligate someone to serve as your agent, so be sure the person you are considering naming is willing to help you if needed. You can also name one or more successor agents to act if the first-named person cannot.

2. Obtain a POA form.

Each state has its own laws governing powers of attorney, so use a form that complies with your state's statutes. Your state's Bar Association or Attorney General's website may have blank forms available for download. You can also check with an office supply store that sells legal forms.

3. Determine what powers to give your agent.

The authority given can be broad, authorizing them to handle any type of financial transaction. Alternatively, you can limit the agent's powers to specific types of transactions. For example, you could create a power of attorney authorizing the individual to handle real estate and insurance matters for you but not banking, investment, or other financial transactions. If you create it for estate planning purposes, it generally makes sense to give them broad, rather than limited, authority.

In some states, you also need to decide whether your agent can make gifts to herself during your lifetime. If you say "no" to this question on the form, they can handle your affairs but would be unable to write herself checks or otherwise transfer assets into her own name.

Another decision is whether to create a durable or nondurable POA. If durable, then your agent can handle your affairs even if you become incapacitated.

4. Execute the form.

Check your state's requirements to make your power of attorney legal. In most states, this means signing the form in front of a notary public, who must then sign and affix their stamp or seal. Some states also require the signatures of one or more witnesses.

5. Notify interested parties.

Give a copy of the signed form to your designated agent or let her know where she can find it if she needs it. Consider also giving copies of the form to your banks, brokers, and other financial providers, so they can put it on file. If you own real estate, you may also want to record the original document with your county recorder or registrar of deeds. Doing so allows them to handle real estate matters on your behalf.

Creating a power of attorney provides valuable peace of mind. It can also help ensure your loved ones have an easier time handling your financial affairs if they need to do so. To simplify creating a POA document, many people first speak to their designated agent to ensure all parties are in agreement as to the duties and other responsibilities regarding such authority.

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.