Jasper L. Edwards
POA, or power of attorney in full, is the power that is given to someone to make them legally allowed to sign binding documents on the behalf of another person. This is called signing as power of attorney, but the process is a little more complex than simply writing both names down. There are legal requirements that you need to meet in order to sign as POA.
Here, we’re going to break down what you need to know about the power of attorney, how to sign as POA, and how to make sure you avoid any issues when you need to sign documents on behalf of someone else.
About Power of Attorney
The principal is the individual who is granting the attorney-in-fact the rights and powers to manage their affairs. The attorney-in-fact is not an attorney as you would typically know them. They are not a licensed and practicing lawyer, aka an attorney-at-law (or at least they don’t have to be,) and are also called agents or grantees in some states. When signed (following the requirements listed below), Power of Attorney gives the attorney-in-fact the legal right and power to do a range of things, including:
● Accessing the principal’s financial accounts
● Managing the legal and business affairs of the principal
● Signing legal documents and contracts on behalf of the principle
If the principal wants their attorney-in-fact to have the power to make health care decisions for them, they must sign a variation called the Medical Power of Attorney.
Responsibilities of the Attorney-in-Fact
Attorneys-in-fact cannot simply act on behalf of the principal in a way that they wish to They must have to act within their best interests and make sure that they are following the wishes of the principal. If an attorney-in-fact is found acting against the best interests or the wishes of the principal, they can be held legally responsible. Someone else can take steps to override the designation of POA. An attorney-in-fact cannot use POA following the death of a principal, they cannot modify the principal’s will or trust documents, and they cannot choose someone else to act as that person’s attorney-in-fact.
Who Requires Power of Attorney
Power of Attorney is typically granted if an individual (the principal) needs someone (the attorney in fact) to make decisions for them that they would otherwise be unable to. This includes the following people:
● Travelers who want someone to handle their financial matters while they are away
● Parents who might need to assign a guardian to their child for some time
● Aging or sick adults who may have challenges handling their own affairs
How to Sign as POA - Step-by-Step
To make sure that a Power of Attorney is going to stand up in a court of law and to keep the process as smooth as possible, it’s best to follow the steps as outlined below:
Have Your Power of Attorney and ID Ready
You should first make sure that you have a proper Power of Attorney form on hand, the original document, which you can easily download and print. Even if the document has been registered with banks, financial agencies, or government agencies, you still need to take the original to them. The attorney-in-fact also needs to bring their government-issue photo ID with them to the institution that they’re trying to sign as POA at. This is just a verification to make sure you are who you say you are, and also the person granted power of attorney.
Use the Signature Format Preferred by the Institution
The vast majority of government agencies, financial institutions, and others are going to require the same format when it comes to signing as POA. Typically, this is formatted like the following:
[The Principal’s Name]
By [The Attorney-in-Fact’s Name]
Power of Attorney
This is a good general format to have your POA in if there are no preferences. However, an institution might prefer a different format, so it is wise to call in advance to confirm what that is. You may need multiple original documents of Power of Attorney to work with different institutions.
The Principal signs
To make sure that the attorney-in-fact is acting on the behalf and guidance of the principal, then the principal must first write their own signature on the document. The name that the principal writes must be their full legal name. If there is any confusion as to what this is, such as whether to include additional middle names, they should format it as is on any pre-existing paperwork at the institution.
The Attorney-in-fact Signs
The attorney-in-fact must then sign their name below the principal’s name. Add the word “by” in front of the name to make it clear that they are acting on behalf of the principal on the POA.
Expressing Authority as Attorney-in-Fact
There does not need to be any particularly long or formal declaration of Power of Attorney. All there needs to be is one of the common expressions of authority below the signature of the attorney-in-fact.
This is typically written as either “Attorney-in-Fact”, “POA”, or “Power of Attorney.” This step is crucial as, without it, it can invalidate the agreement and even lead to civil or criminal lawsuits.
Just write “Attorney-in-Fact”, “POA”, or “Power Of Attorney” beneath the name of the Attorney in Fact.
Keep the Power of Attorney Safe
Ensure that any original POA document is kept safe and filed away in a secure location. You may need to be able to acquire it again in the event of a legal challenge against your POA. It’s a good idea to keep records of when the POA was signed and how it was used, just to avoid any challenges of impropriety.