A "power of attorney" (POA) is a document that is drawn up to legally allow a designated other person to make decisions for you and act on your behalf while you are unable to do so for whatever reason. Any written document stating who you are handing POA to is acceptable for most purposes, but a certain format should be followed in order to prevent any dispute over the validity of your terms and/or signature.
The person to whom you transfer POA is called the Attorney-in-Fact, or agent. In the first section of the power of attorney document, your name and address should be clear, followed by whom you intend to transfer POA to, along with their address. You should make sure that the spelling of your name, as well as the spelling of your agent's name(s), are accurate to prevent any confusion if/when the POA is needed.
Specify General or Special
The two main types of POA are "general" or "special." With general POA, the agent is authorised to make any and all decisions for you, and to act on your behalf in your absence. A special POA is used for specific purposes only and, in this section, if your POA applies only to certain cases (e.g., real estate, child care, IRS, loans), it must be specified as such. Be as specific as possible; as there is no maximum word amount that is appropriate to POAs, be sure to be as clear as possible.
Specialised Power of Attorney
Two other types of POAs are also possible: health care and durable. These conditions should be specified in any POA if your intent is to have your agent act on your behalf only when certain conditions are met.
A health care POA assigns one person to make life-sustaining and health care decisions for you in the event that you are unconscious, or otherwise incapable of making such decisions.
A durable POA is applicable only in the case that you become mentally incompetent; the agent will then make any and all decisions for you, much like a general POA, but only in the case you are legally declared mentally incompetent to make those decisions for yourself.
Once all the powers that your agent will have are specified, consider adding a time limit to the POA. For example, if the POA is active only for the duration that you will be on vacation, it would be appropriate to write in this section that effective at 12:01 A.M. on the date of your return, this POA is revoked. In the case of special POAs like the durable POA, time limits would not be necessary or appropriate.
Sign and Notarize
At the end of each POA, you should state that you are of sound mind and health and are authorising the listed agents to act on your behalf. Sign and date the sheet in the presence of an official notary, and have the document notarised. While this is not always a legally required step, it ensures the validity of the document and can prevent a variety of problems should the legality of the document come into question at a later date.
Follow this template as a loose guideline when creating a POA letter:
Be it known that I, __ (insert your name), am hereby granting a _ (enter "general" or "limited") power of attorney to ____ (insert agent's name), as my solicitor.
From _____ (insert dates, or "until further notice"), my solicitor has full power and authority to perform the following on my behalf:
(Specify what the solicitor is being granted POA for and include any and all limitations or exclusions.)
I reserve the right to revoke this power of attorney at any time. Until receipt of such revocation, any and all parties should accept the authority of my solicitor named above.
Signed _____ on (date) ___.
Notarise the document, if possible.
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