What Happens if We Lost the Power of Attorney Papers?

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

What Happens if We Lost the Power of Attorney Papers?

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

A power of attorney is a legal document that allows a person—known as the "principal"—to appoint another individual or organization—known as an "agent" or "attorney in fact"—to manage certain affairs on their behalf.

Woman sitting on floor reviewing paperwork with a cup of coffee

Because it has such significance, the actual document is very important and should be kept in a safe place. If you lose your power of attorney papers, you may need to create an entirely new document unless you've registered it with your county.

Power of Attorney Basics

When you create a power of attorney, you are essentially authorizing another party to make decisions on your behalf. A power of attorney can cover a wide range of issues, but the most common areas are healthcare and financial matters. For example, a person may create a power of attorney authorizing his spouse to make certain healthcare decisions for him should he ever become incapacitated.

There are two types of powers of attorney: general and special. A general power of attorney gives broad authorizations to the agent, whereas a special power of attorney narrows what decisions the agent can make. The power of attorney document itself should specify exactly what type of authority the principal is authorizing.

Significance of the Document

A power of attorney is unique in that its power is in the actual document. The document itself verifies that your power of attorney actually exists, and third parties may require your agent to produce the document as proof before allowing a transaction to take place. Some third parties may even require the principal or the attorney who drew up the document to sign an affidavit verifying its authenticity.

If you lose the power of attorney document and do not have access to any copies, the agent loses the ability to prove they have the right to act on your behalf. A new power of attorney will likely need to be created in order for the agent to retain those authorizations. Some states allow an agent to use copies of the power of attorney instead of providing the original document. For example, some states allow both photocopies and electronic copies to be used to prove an agent has been given these rights.

Recording the Power of Attorney

If you want to make sure you never lose your power of attorney, one option is to record it in your county. Recording the document simply means that you file it in your county's official public volume so that it becomes public record. The benefit of recording your power of attorney is that if you ever lose your document, you can get a certified copy from the county record to prove its existence.

The downside of publicly recording your power of attorney is that it becomes public and anyone can access its contents. If you are a private person, this may not be the option for you.

Giving someone a power of attorney should not be taken lightly. If you have any questions or are thinking about creating one, you can always enlist the help of a professional.

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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