How to Fill Out a Power of Attorney

By Laura Payet

How to Fill Out a Power of Attorney

By Laura Payet

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal instrument that grants one person the authority to act on another's behalf. The person granting the power is the principal, and the one accepting it is the agent. It's important to complete this document properly, as an improperly completed form may not be effective. Another possible unintended consequence is finding you've granted too much authority.

Person signing a document labeled "General Power of Attorney"

If you are ready to fill out your POA paperwork, you can find templates online or at various office supply stores. Follow these steps once you're ready to take next steps.

1. Choose an agent.

Before you begin to fill out the form, you have some decisions to make. First, of course, you must choose your agent. Generally, they can be anyone over the age of 18 who is of sound mind. You should discuss the idea with this person to be sure they are willing and able to take on the responsibility. Be sure it is someone you trust.

2. Decide on the type of authority.

You can choose whether you want your POA to be broad or narrow. A general document like this grants your agent the authority to do anything you can legally do. You may decide to grant this type of authority for financial matters or solely for a specific transaction, such as a real estate closing or the registration of a vehicle. A medical POA grants your agent the ability to make medical decisions for you. Think carefully about your reasons for granting the power and what you need your agent to do.

3. Identify the length of time the POA will be in effect.

You must also determine when the power begins and when it ends. A durable POA begins when you sign it and continues even if you become incapacitated. A nondurable POA, on the other hand, ends once you have become incapacitated. You may also elect to have the authority take effect at some time in the future. For example, if you should become unable to handle your own affairs, you grant your agent authority to handle financial matters. This is sometimes called a springing power because it springs into effect at a later date. You can also designate a specific end date. For example, you may wish to designate an agent to act for you during a military deployment, in which case you would choose to have the power terminate when you return home.

4. Fill out the form.

Although the format varies depending on your state and the form you use, it generally includes the following information:

  • Your full legal name and address
  • Your agent's full legal name and address
  • The date the power becomes effective
  • The date the power ends, if applicable
  • The specific powers granted

5. Execute the document.

You should sign and date the your POA in front of a notary. Some states also require you to sign in front of witnesses. Your agent usually does not need to sign. Be sure to have additional copies of the form available, and provide your agent with one. You may also want to provide copies to your attorney, if you have one, and to any financial institutions where you hold accounts.

Financial and medical powers of attorney can be important parts of your estate plan, and they require careful thought. If you are ready to give authority to someone else, regardless of the type of power being given, follow these steps to draft your paperwork.

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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