Generally, a power of attorney document gives authority to another person, known as your agent or attorney-in-fact, to conduct transactions or make decisions on your behalf. This type of document may be helpful if, for example, you cannot attend a real estate closing. You can draft a power of attorney giving a wide range of powers to your agent, or a more limited power of attorney, giving your agent specific powers for only certain transactions. Either type of POA can give your agent power to sell property on your behalf.
Creating the Document
Because state laws govern powers of attorney, check your state’s requirements before creating your power of attorney document. Generally, a limited power of attorney for purposes like selling real estate must contain your name, the name of your agent and a description of the powers you are giving him. For example, a limited power of attorney could give your agent authority to sell a particular piece of property for a set price. It can also instruct your agent to enter into all transactions relating to all your real estate. Further, you can grant your agent a durable power of attorney, which means it stays in effect even if you become incapacitated. However, if the power of attorney document does not specifically state that it is durable, it is non-durable, meaning it terminates if you become incapacitated.
The person who creates the power of attorney document is known as the principal and must sign the document. Your state might require that you have witnesses to your signature or that you notarize your signature -- or both. For example, Maryland law requires that you sign a POA document in front of two witnesses and a notary -- all of whom must sign it in the presence of everyone else. However, the notary can also serve as one of the witnesses. Your state might also require your agent to sign the power of attorney or a separate certification document. When your agent executes the necessary paperwork to sell your property, he must sign his name followed by a phrase indicating that he is signing as your agent or attorney-in-fact. In some cases, he might also have to attach a copy of your power of attorney appointing him as your agent.
State or local rules might require that you record your power of attorney along with your other real estate documents. For example, Virginia law requires that POAs used for real estate transactions be signed, notarized and then recorded in the land records office where the deed to the property is recorded. In Pennsylvania, you can record a notarized power of attorney with your county recorder of deeds and the recorders in any county where you own real property that the POA might affect. Although recording is generally voluntary in Pennsylvania, a recorder of deeds might require that you record a POA used to sell real estate when you use it for the first time.
Generally, your power of attorney is automatically revoked or terminated when you die, but you can revoke it prior to your death. If you establish an expiration date in your document, your agent will not retain any powers to act on your behalf beyond that expiration date. You can also withdraw your agent’s powers at any time and for any reason. While states typically recognize verbal revocations, you can also create a written revocation to make a record of your action, especially when dealing with real estate transactions. Some states, like Virginia, allow you to record your written revocation in the recorder of deeds’ office where you originally recorded the POA.