If you are looking to legally authorize another person to act on your behalf concerning business and personal matters, creating a power of attorney (POA) makes sense. However, your choice of power of attorney will depend on the extent to which you would like your representative to perform tasks on your behalf.
What Is a General Power Of Attorney?
You need to opt for a general power of attorney when you want someone to represent you in all matters, including mundane business and personal tasks. You can also use the general power of attorney to authorize someone to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf. The legal document will enable your agent to carry out activities, such as paying your bills, accessing your IRA accounts to withdraw money, filing taxes and signing contracts on your behalf.
A typical general power of attorney is usually non-durable. That means, upon your incapacitation, it ceases to be valid. However, you could opt to make your general power of attorney durable, thus allowing your agent to continue acting on your behalf even when you have been incapacitated. In such cases, the authority you give over to someone else will end upon your death or when you revoke it.
Another issue to bear in mind is whether your general POA will be immediate or springing. An immediate POA becomes valid the moment you sign it. However, a springing power of attorney only becomes active in the future if a specified condition has been met. The situation could include you becoming physically or mentally incapacitated.
If the language of your POA is not specific enough, it may necessitate a visit to the courts for interpretation, thus wasting precious time. On the other hand, if you give someone sweeping powers to act on your behalf and they are untrustworthy, they may end up betraying your trust and doing a lot of damage. For this reason, you need to pay very close attention to how you fill out a general power of attorney.
How to Fill Out a General POA Form
You need to be careful when filling out a POA form to ensure you do everything correctly. Below are the steps you should follow.
1. Get Your POA Form
Start by getting a POA form. Because the state laws vary, the form will not be uniform across the country. Therefore, you need to find a suitable power of attorney form for your state.
Do your research when looking for a general POA form. You can find the POA forms from a local lawyer or online. Some attorneys usually create statutory power of attorney documents, which are standard and meant for specific states. You can use these documents to create a general POA on your own.
These templates tend to fall under different categories, depending on what kind of powers you want to hand over. So, select the one you want carefully. Bear in mind that if you find an online POA template, you must download and print it.
Some allow you to fill in the details online first, while others will enable you to handwrite the details. Find what works for you. And once you find what suits your needs best, you can start creating a power of attorney.
2. Fill Out the POA
The next step is to fill out the POA documentation. Below are the general POA directions you should follow.
- Your details, such as official name and address, should go into the section reserved for the principal.
- Your representative’s name and official address should go into the section reserved for the agent or attorney-in-fact.
- If you intend to designate more than one person as attorney-in-fact, do so in the secondary agent section. The people you include in that section will act on your behalf if the first agent is not in a position to do so.
- Read the general POA instructions on designating powers to your agent. You must be as clear and specific as possible. So, be sure also to include the duration a power of attorney will be in effect and the particular authority you are giving to your agent.
3. Execute the POA
If you used an online POA, you will need to save, download and print it.
Executing the POA then becomes the final stage. You must sign your general POA and date it. However, since some states require it, it would be wise to do that in front of two witnesses (who should not be attorneys-in-fact).
As the principal, you may also need to sign and notarize your power of attorney to make it legally binding. The same rule may apply to your agent. So, confirm whether that is also a requirement in your state. And be sure to carry your identification documents with you when you visit the notary public.
Having multiple copies of any critical document is always an excellent idea. You can distribute them to the relevant parties and file them for future use. You could start by giving both your agent and attorney a copy each after you complete the POA.
You may also distribute the document to your financial institutions. And remember, there is always a chance of misuse by the agent. So, be careful about who you designate as your representative to ensure your interests are taken care of.
- LegalZoom: What Is a Power of Attorney (POA)?
- Hook Law Center: General Durable Powers Of Attorney
- AgingCare: Durable vs. Springing Power of Attorney: What’s the Difference?
- Forbes: Power Of Attorney: An Essential Legal Document You May Have To Prepare Yourself
- EForm: Power of Attorney (POA) Form
- LegalNature: Power of Attorney Basics and Requirements
- WikiHow: How to Notarize a Power of Attorney
I hold a BS in Computer Science and have been a freelance writer since 2011. When I am not writing, I enjoy reading, watching cooking and lifestyle shows, and fantasizing about world travels.