A durable power of attorney allows a person, called the "principal," to designate an agent to legally act on his behalf in certain matters, even if the principal loses the ability to make decisions for himself. A power of attorney grant may be amended to expand an agent’s ability to act on behalf of the principal, to limit the agent’s influence, or to change agents entirely. Amending a durable power of attorney is subject to state law, and the standards can vary.
Review the original durable power of attorney. When you drafted the document initially, you might have anticipated that you would amend it at some time in the future. Consequently, you may have included provisions in the original grant about how to amend. If the original grant provides a process for amendment, follow those steps. A typical amendment plan will involve informing the agent of the changes in writing.
Review the laws of your state. If the original power of attorney does specify how it can be amended, you will need to rely on the relevant laws in your state, and standards can vary.
Prepare the amendment. It should be drafted in such a way that the agent will only have enough power to do the things you need him to do and nothing more. Before drafting the document, evaluate the tasks you want your agent to perform and what actions he will need to take on your behalf to achieve those goals. Besides listing the things your agent can do in the amendment, you might want to explicitly state what the agent cannot do as well. Identify which of your assets your agent will be able to control, which affairs he may intervene in on your behalf, and whether he can take out debt in your name.
Sign the amendment. It is important to remember that the process for executing the amendment will be defined by either the original power of attorney grant or state law, so the requirements will vary. Generally, the requirements for executing an amendment will mirror the requirements for executing a power of attorney. In some states, the person granting power of attorney must sign the document and have it notarized.
Contact the relevant parties with whom the agent will be working on your behalf. The agent will likely work with a few entities on your behalf, such as your bank or your broker. It is important that you call them and let them know exactly how much authority the agent has. This should minimize confusion and provide protection against your agent abusing his authority.
Consider hiring a local attorney or using a document preparation service to help you prepare the amendment.
In some cases, revoking and destroying the original power of attorney and executing a new one with the added terms is a better option than creating an amendment.
John Cromwell specializes in financial, legal and small business issues. Cromwell holds a bachelor's and master's degree in accounting, as well as a Juris Doctor. He is currently a co-founder of two businesses.