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Learn more about Power of Attorney

What is a Power of Attorney?

When you need a little help making big medical or financial decisions, a Power of Attorney form (also known as a POA form) allows you to give permission to another person or entity (your agent) to act on your behalf.

Instances where a Power of Attorney form would be necessary may include emergency situations where you are incapacitated and cannot make medical or financial decisions on your own. A POA legally protects your financial and health-related interests that would otherwise be appointed in court.

Your appointed agent doesn't have to be a lawyer, and their power is defined entirely by you. A Power of Attorney form can be general, granting broad authority over all of your medical and financial affairs, or it may be limited, giving your agent a defined set of responsibilities only in certain situations.

Whether you're going to be unavailable, or you want to prepare for unexpected illness, our simple Power of Attorney template can help you to ensure that someone you trust will manage your finances and health care with your best interest in mind.

Types of Power of Attorney

What is Durable Power of Attorney vs. Springing Power of Attorney?
In advanced estate planning, it's often smart to make your Power of Attorney form "durable." A Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) is a lifetime contract and is effective even if you're incapacitated or become mentally incompetent. The DPOA form is sometimes called an Enduring Power of Attorney.

On the other hand, a Springing Power of Attorney form, such as a Military Power of Attorney or a Mental Health Care Power of Attorney, only goes into effect after a certain condition is met, often as a result of travel abroad or illness.

What is General Power of Attorney vs. Limited Power of Attorney?
While a general Power of Attorney form gives your agents broad authority over your financial or medical affairs until you become incapacitated, a special or limited Power of Attorney form allows you to define their responsibilities on a limited basis for one-time financial or transactional purposes. For example, if you would prefer to have your spouse manage your personal financial decisions and your business partner manage business decisions, you can use separate Limited Power of Attorney templates to handle this.

What is a Medical Power of Attorney?
If you are looking to appoint a trusted decision-maker specifically for health care decisions, you can also use our customizable Medical Power of Attorney form, also known as a "health care proxy" or "advance directive". Unlike a Living Will, which only addresses deathbed concerns, a Durable Power of Attorney form for Health Care covers all medical decisions and can include provisions for deathbed treatment.

If you have questions about what POA forms are right for handling your financial and medical matters, you can always ask a lawyer.

Why Do You Need a Power of Attorney Form?

There are many benefits of a Power of Attorney form as part of your estate plan, especially since you never know when an emergency situation will arise. Here are a few ways you can use a Power of Attorney (POA) form:

  • You want to authorize someone to handle your medical and financial affairs in the event in situations of extended absences, such as military deployment or travel.
  • You want to authorize someone to handle your medical and financial affairs in the event that you are mentally incapacitated.
  • You want to authorize someone to act on your behalf in another specific situation, such as court cases or business decisions.Rocket Lawyer's DIY Power of Attorney form is a template you can use to have conversations with your family about important estate planning decisions. If you're unsure which Power of Attorney form is best for you, ask a lawyer today.

What is Required for a Power of Attorney (POA) Form to be Legal?
The process for obtaining a power of attorney varies depending on your situation and whether or not you are the grantor of the rights or the grantee. For a Power of Attorney form to be legal, the signer must be mentally competent, acting by choice, and with at least two witnesses present. Some states also require that your signature on your Power of Attorney form be notarized. Read more below to learn how to give, obtain or revoke power of attorney.

How to Give Power of Attorney to an Appointed Agent
The first step in giving power of attorney is to choose an agent, the person who can act on your behalf. You may prefer for your agent to be a family member, a longtime friend, or a trusted professional, such as your lawyer, doctor or accountant. Thisperson must be at least eighteen years old for the Power of Attorney to be valid. If you would prefer to have multiple POA co-agents work as a team (as with a Dual Power of Attorney), or if you would like to name a successor in the event that your primary attorney-in-fact is unable or unwilling, now is a good time to select those people, as well.

How to Write a Power of Attorney
Before you begin to write your free Power of Attorney form, have a conversation with the agents you've chosen to discuss why you're giving them power of attorney and how a Power of Attorney works, including the duration of their responsibilities how long the Power of Attorney will last and any compensation. These terms will be included in your POA form, but having this conversation before completing the template can help to prevent misunderstandings.

To fill out the durable Power of Attorney template, you should have the addresses and phone numbers of your agents on hand. You may also consider reviewing the following documents to ensure that you've got all of your legal matters covered:

  • Existing Will, Trust or other Power of Attorney forms
  • Financial paperwork: Bank statements and stock/bond information
  • Property deeds

Does a Power of Attorney Form Need to Be Notarized?
Once you've completed your free printable Power of Attorney, you'll need to download it and have it signed. Signing requirements for power of attorney forms vary from state to state—we'll tell you what's required after you've created your durable Power of Attorney document.In some states, you must have the Power of Attorney form signed by a notary public and/or witnesses to your signature. Do not sign the POA form until you have the required individuals present to observe your signature. When signing your Power of Attorney, note that you also need to have the addresses and phone numbers of the witnesses to the document, if any. Also, some notaries charge a fee for stamping or sealinga document. Once the Power of Attorney form is signed, be sure to give a copy to your agent and let them know where you plan to keep the original.

How to Obtain Power of Attorney for a Parent or Relative
For you to become an agent or POA attorney-in-fact for someone else, your parent or relative must knowingly and willingly sign a durable Power of Attorney form in the presence of a notary and/or witnesses (depending on your state.) If they reside in a different state, be sure that the durable Power of Attorney form is made for their state of residence, not yours. If your parent is hospitalized or in a nursing home or hospice care, you may be able to find a notary on staff to witness the signing. Otherwise, you should hire a mobile notarization service.

If your parent suffers from dementia or Alzheimer's, you may be required to present a letter from a physician stating that they can still understand what's being signed in order for the POA to be valid. If your parent is deemed unable to make their own decisions, then they are not legally able to sign a Power of Attorney form. If this is the case, you may be able to become a conservator (or adult guardian) instead. Conservators also have the authority to handle medical and financial POA matters, however the process of becoming one involves going before a judge. If you would like to proceed as a conservator, you should talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.

If your parent passes away, then the durable Power of Attorney form is no longer valid and other estate planning documents, such as a Last Will and Testament, take precedence.

How to Obtain Power of Attorney for a Child
Parents or legal guardians of minor children can give temporary authority to another adult relative or caretaker using a Power of Attorney for a Child form. It is important to note that you can only grant parental rights for a defined period of time—no more than six months in many states.

How to Revoke Power of Attorney
You can cancel or revoke a signed Power of Attorney form at any time, regardless of the reason. The revocation should be made in writing using a Revocation of Power of Attorney form, and you must provide notice to your attorney-in-fact under the POA form that you are revoking.

Once you have revoked the original POA, you can update your Power of Attorney form or create a new one. When changing your Power of Attorney form, it is important to revoke the original, as it may still be considered valid unless it is explicitly revoked in writing.

How Long Does Power of Attorney Last?
In most states, a Power of Attorney is valid until it is revoked or replaced. That said, if you prefer to set a specific date of termination, you may include that information within your document. After that designated date, your POA would no longer be valid.

Are Power of Attorney Forms Public Record?
In general, Power of Attorney forms are not part of the public record, unless they are submitted to your county recorder's office. This can be helpful if you want to ensure proof of the document's existence in the event that it is lost or destroyed. The downside, of course, is that it is publicly viewable by anyone.

To learn more about estate planning, check out our guide to Estate Planning Basics or review our selection of Estate Planning documents.

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