How to Properly Sign a Power of Attorney Document for Someone

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

How to Properly Sign a Power of Attorney Document for Someone

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that allows an individual to appoint a person they trust to make important decisions and participate in legal transactions on their behalf. The person granting the authority is the principal, and the person accepting the authority is the agent, sometimes called the attorney-in-fact.

Two people sitting on couches look over documents with pens in hand

There are different types of powers of attorney that meet different needs and circumstances. When acting with power of attorney, you must clearly indicate that you are signing documents on the other person's behalf.

Common Types of Powers of Attorney

A principal uses a non-durable, or limited, power of attorney for a short period of time or for a particular transaction. It is revocable and expires once the particular event or transaction has taken place. It also ends if the principal becomes incapacitated.

A durable POA lasts even if the principal becomes ill or otherwise incapacitated and lacks the mental capacity to make informed decisions. To make a power of attorney durable, you must use specific language. Language requirements vary by state, and certain powers of attorney, such as medical powers of attorney, are always durable.

A medical or healthcare POA allows an agent to be a principal's representative for all aspects of their health care in the event they become incapacitated. Drafting this is a very important decision because the agent will potentially make all medical decisions for you, including end-of-life care decisions.

How to Accept Power of Attorney

If someone has verbally chosen you to act on their behalf, the next step is making it legal. Follow these steps to properly execute the POA according to your state's laws.

1. Fill out a power of attorney form or create a custom document.

Most states do not require you to use a specific form, but they do have requirements for what you must include in the document that grants the power of attorney and how you must sign it.

2. Double-check the details.

Regardless of the route you choose, be sure to read through the document and confirm that it both meets your state's requirements and grants the power upon which both of you have agreed.

3. Execute the POA.

In addition to the signatures of the principal and agent, many states require the signatures of two witnesses, and some require notarization.

Properly Signing Documents as Power of Attorney

Once you have power of attorney, you have the authority to sign documents on the principal's behalf. Any time you plan to sign something for the principal, you should follow the correct legal procedure.

1. Bring documentation that identifies you as having power of attorney.

Bring a copy of your POA document with you when you plan to sign for the principal. The principal can file the power of attorney document with financial institutions and medical offices, but it's best to have a copy just in case the organization wants to see the original.

2. Sign the principal's name and identify yourself.

You can always ask how the institution prefers you sign the document. If you are unsure, it is best to sign the principal's name first to eliminate any confusion and make it clear the principal is the one engaging in the transaction. After you sign the principal's name, write "by" followed by your name. For example, "Rachel Green by Ross Geller."

Sign both names in signature format. After your name, include a word or phrase that shows your authority to sign: for example, "power of attorney" or "attorney in fact." By properly signing, you ensure that the power of attorney, a useful legal tool, has its intended effect and that documents you sign on behalf of the principal hold up in court, should someone challenge their validity.

Having a properly drafted POA is important for anyone wanting to designate an agent to make financial and/or medical decisions on their behalf. But improperly executing it, or not having the appropriate signatures, can cause significant legal implications down the line. Avoid this by following these steps to ensure that your POA is properly set up and signed.

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.