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General Power of Attorney Forms

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A general power of attorney form allows a person (agent) to make financial decisions for someone else (principal). It is a non-durable form that automatically terminates if the principal should become incapacitated. However, the form must be signed in the same method as a Durable Power of Attorney with two (2) witnesses, a notary public, or both.

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Contents

What is a General Power of Attorney?

A general power of attorney is a legal document allowing a person (“principal”) to select someone else to make any type of financial decisions on their behalf. It can grant the same powers to the agent as a durable power of attorney and is the same in every respect except that it is non-durable.

Non-Durable 

A general power of attorney is non-durable, meaning it will terminate immediately after a principal becomes incapacitated or can no longer think for themselves.

How to Get a General Power of Attorney

Granting power of attorney using a general POA form involves selecting someone to be your “agent,” completing the form, and signing in accordance with state law. In theory it is a simple process, but giving someone power of attorney means they will have the authority to make a number of important financial decisions, so the principal should be very mindful while completing each step.

Step 1 – Select an Agent

The most important step is to choose an agent that will represent the principal’s financial interests. This type of power of attorney is common amongst business partners or anyone that would like representation for financial matters.

  • Alternate Agent – An alternate or “secondary” agent can be selected if the primary agent is not available.

Step 2 – Choose Powers

The principal can select any type of financial power including, but not limited to, those listed in the Uniform Power of Attorney Act (UPOAA):

  • Real Property
  • Tangible Personal Property
  • Stocks and Bonds
  • Commodities and Options
  • Banks and Other Financial Institutions
  • Operation of Entity or Business
  • Insurance and Annuities
  • Estates, Trusts, and Other Beneficial Interests
  • Claims and Litigation
  • Personal and Family Maintenance
  • Benefits from Governmental Programs or Civil or Military Service
  • Retirement Plans
  • Taxes

In addition, the principal may include special powers to run a business, manage or sell property, and any other financial act permissible by state and federal law.

Step 3 – Complete the Form

The principal and agent should complete the power of attorney together. If there is anything the principal doesn’t understand they should seek legal counsel.

Step 4 – Sign the Power of Attorney

A general power of attorney must be signed in the same manner as a durable power of attorney; the state signing requirements can be referenced when completing this step (notarization and two (2) witnesses is commonplace).

How to Write

Download: PDF,  Word (.docx), OpenDocument

Prior to filling out the form, the principal should prepare by identifying someone they believe would make a great fit as their agent. They should then speak with their preferred agent to ask if they’d be willing to act in the role, are comfortable performing all of the actions required, and would sign the document when requested. If the agent is on board with acting as the attorney-in-fact, the principal can begin completing the document.

Step 1 – Principal + Agent

At the top of the first (1st) page, the principal will need to provide both their name and address, and the name and address of the agent they selected. The principal can include the ZIP code in parentheses next to the state if they feel it necessary.

Step 2 – Initialing Powers

The principal will need to inscribe their initials next to each power they wish to grant to the agent. If initials are not placed next to a power, the agent will NOT have the authority to perform these actions. If there are any miscellaneous powers the principal would like to grant to the agent, they can do so by providing their initials next to “Other” and entering the powers in detail on the three (3) lines provided.

Step 3 – Interpretation and Governing Law

Provide the name of the state in which the principal resides on the single line provided. If the POA will be used primarily in another state, enter the name of the state in which the agent will be exercising their power.

Step 4 – Beginning & End Dates

The effective date is the date on which the agent will be able to start performing their assigned duties for the principal. For the effective date, the principal can initial only one (1) of the two options provided.

  1. Initial the first line for the POA to go into effect immediately after the principal’s signature is recorded; OR
  2. Initial the second line and enter the day, month, and year on which the POA should begin.

If the principal wants the form to go into effect upon their incapacitation, a durable (financial) form should be used instead.

For the termination date, the principal can select any/all of the three (3) following options:

  1. Initial the first line to specify an exact date for the POA to terminate. Include the date (day, month, and year) on which the agent’s powers will be revoked.
  2. Initial the second line if the principal has the option to revoke the POA manually at any time. Even if this option is not selected, the principal can most likely still revoke the form through the use of an official POA revocation form.
  3. Initial the third (last) line to have the POA terminate in the event the principal is unable to communicate/make decisions. Note: because this is a non-durable form, even if this line is not initialed, the POA will still revoke should the principal become incapacitated.

Step 5 – Principal’s Signature

The principal will need to inscribe their signature onto the document in order for it to be legally binding. See the state signing requirements to ensure the form is signed properly. If the principal will be signing in the presence of a Notary Public or witnesses, they will need to wait to sign until these parties can observe the signature. At the time of signing, the principal will need to provide the following:

  1. The day, month, and year they are signing;
  2. Their signature (use eSign or sign by hand); and
  3. Their full printed name.

Step 6 – Agent’s Acceptance of Appointment

While not always a state requirement, the agent should sign the form to show they understand their role as the attorney-in-fact, and that they agree to uphold all responsibilities that come with this position. The agent will need to enter the following information:

  1. Their full name (first and third line)
  2. Signature (using eSign or by hand)

The agent does not need to have their signature witnessed or notarized.

Step 7 – Witness Signatures (if required)

This section is to be completed by the witness(es) ONLY. Many states require the principal to have their signature witnessed by one (1) or more people. The witnesses should be over the age of eighteen (18+) and cannot be an agent of the principal. The notary cannot serve as a witness. Each witness will need to complete the following steps:

  1. Sign their name (if using eSign, the witness must be in the same room as the principal);
  2. Write their full printed name; and
  3. Write their mailing address on the lines provided.

Step 8 – Notarization (if required)

This section is to be completed by a Notary Public ONLY. No instruction is necessary.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does a general power of attorney need to be registered?

In the majority of cases, a general POA does not need to be registered. A situation in which registering (or recording) a POA is recommended is if the POA will be used for a real estate transaction. In this case, the principal should bring a copy of the power of attorney to their local register of deeds for recording.

How to cancel a general power of attorney?

Canceling a power of attorney is quite a straightforward process. All the principal needs to do is:

  1. Download and complete a revocation of power of attorney form;
  2. Deliver a copy of the revocation to the agent;
  3. Send a copy to anyone else that received a copy of the POA (banks, post offices, etc.); and
  4. Destroy any remaining copies of the POA.

What's the difference between general and durable power of attorney?

The major difference between a durable and general power of attorney is that a durable POA does not terminate if the principal becomes incapacitated. As such, durable forms are used when the principal wants to nominate someone to handle their finances in the event they are unable to communicate their wishes due to the inability to act for themselves.

Does a general power of attorney need to be notarized?

Possibly. Each state has their own power of attorney signing requirements.

What does a general power of attorney cover?

Any and all matters that don’t involve health care decisions. The following powers can be granted to an agent through a general POA:

  • Making payments and collecting owed money
  • Purchasing, selling, and leasing real and/or personal property
  • Managing the principal’s property
  • Banking matters
  • Vehicles
  • Taxes
  • Safe-deposit boxes
  • Gifting
  • Lending and borrowing
  • Entering into contracts
  • Health care (excluding actual medical decisions)
  • HIPAA matters
  • Ability to hire and pay for various services
  • Reimbursing
  • Commencing lawsuits

Does a general power of attorney cover medical decisions?

No, a general power of attorney covers financial matters. For medical decisions, one should choose and advance directive or medical power of attorney.

How long does a general power of attorney last?

A general power of attorney can remain effect however long the principal chooses. This can be days, months, or even years. Being a non-durable form, it will automatically terminate should the principal become incapacitated or die.