How to Use a Statutory Durable Power of Attorney

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

How to Use a Statutory Durable Power of Attorney

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

To use a power of attorney (POA), you must make sure you have the proper documentation ready to provide to the institution where you are trying to act on someone else's behalf. The document itself allows you do just that.

Woman with short blonde hair wearing glasses and a red button-up shirt reviewing paperwork

The powers granted to you in a power of attorney vary. But every document allows you, as an agent, to act on behalf of someone else, referred to as the principal. This authority comes with great responsibility.

Authority Granted

When someone creates a POA, they are choosing to grant decision making authority to you. This can be for several reasons:

  • The person cannot act on their behalf
  • The person expects needing help in the future
  • The person trusts you

That last one is extremely important. When someone signs a power of attorney, they are giving you the authority to act on their behalf which could mean accessing their bank accounts and making financial and medical decisions for them. They must trust you completely.

Steps to Using Your POA

Most reputable businesses and banks will not take your word that you hold a POA over someone else. They will need documentation confirming it. While this hurdle may seem cumbersome, it's necessary to protect everyone, including yourself.

1. Make and keep several copies of the power of attorney.

A durable power of attorney means it lasts even after the individual is deemed incapacitated. You do not want to lose the original as the principal may no longer have the mental capacity to sign a new document.

2. Take a copy of the POA with you.

Whether you are going to a bank to make a withdrawal or visiting a doctor, make sure you have a copy of the documentation to show the institution that you have authority. When you act on someone else's behalf, you are the attorney-in-fact. You should have multiple copies because most institutions, especially banks, will want to keep a copy of it on file.

3. Some institutions will require you to sign their own documentation.

Banks may require you to sign an affidavit that you have the authority to take the action you are taking. They will keep this document along with a copy of the power of attorney on file.

4. Sign documentation with your name and the principal's name.

While your name has the legal effect of being the agent with authority over the principal's finances and/or medical decisions, you must still sign their name as well. You do so by signing their name first and then your name and noting on the signature line you are the agent.

5. Keep a copy of all documents you sign.

Your records should be meticulous. While the principal trusts you to make decisions on their behalf, you also need to protect yourself by keeping copies of all documents you sign. If there is a legal action later, you have evidence to show you were always acting in their best interests.

Holding a power of attorney is an awesome responsibility and one you should not take lightly. By following these steps, you do everything in your power to make sure both you and the other person are protected.

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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