A general power of attorney is an essential document that gives an agent the legal mandate to control all finances and make critical decisions in your place until you die or are incapacitated. It is a legally binding form that becomes invalid if the principal suffers a mental condition that prevents rational decision making. For instance, getting Alzheimer’s or going into a coma. Or when the principal revokes the power of attorney form.
Legal requirements for a general power of attorney include soundness of mind and at least two witnesses to sign the form. The principle must be in good mental health to understand the meaning of the document and its impact. Moreover, he/she must not be acting under the influence of third-parties.
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General POA Use Cases
Any person who is 18 years and above can get a general POA due to various circumstances. However, the elderly need a POA the most since they can’t make rational decisions due to age or health conditions. Hence, an agent makes all financial and healthcare decisions in the sole interest of the principal.
Also, a military soldier can get a POA before deployment abroad to give a trusted agent power to make financial decisions for his family. If you travel a lot or are an expatriate, you can create a POA and allow an agent to handle your affairs back at home, especially if you don’t have a spouse.
The following are the powers that a general power of attorney form permits you as the principal to delegate authority to the agent in the POA form:
- Making money payments and collecting
- Financial management
- Acquiring, leasing, or selling your property
- Bank transactions
- Managing motor vehicles
- Awarding gifts
- Lend or borrow money
- Contractual agreements
- Hiring and paying services
- Health care decisions
- Attorney-in-Fact reimbursement (agent’s payment)
- Suing third parties
- Managing safe deposit boxes
- Other powers that you can customize
How to Fill Out a General POA
Writing a general Power of Attorney requires you to follow the simple steps below:
The first step is to identify the powers you want to give to your agent. In the general POA, the principal must ensure a thorough reading of the POA form while selecting the powers. Each power on the form has a detailed explanation on the left. The form has 16 powers that you can select, and if none works for you, you can proceed to the “Other” option. Here, you can customize the power that you need by manually defining them on the form.
Choose an Agent
Another critical step is selecting an agent, the individual who will hold all the assigned powers. Your agent must be trustworthy and articulate since it is quite a sensitive document. If your agent is not a straight-forward person, he/she can mess your life immensely due to misuse of the powers. Therefore, you need to carry out due diligence before bestowing power of attorney to anyone. But to be on the safe side, you can choose two agents for security reasons. Besides, when an agent passes away or is incapacitated, the substitute agent will take over the responsibility.
After knowing all the powers you want to assign and selecting a reliable agent to carry out the execution, you can now fill the POA document. Then, the principal and the agent must append their signatures on the form. Moreover, ensure that two witnesses are available to oversee the execution, and they should also sign the form. It is imperative to note that the witnesses should not be related to the principal or the agent to avoid conflict of interest.
Notarization of the POA form is mandatory to make the document valid in court. Distribute copies of the POA form to all the concerned parties and place the original POA document safely.
How to Revoke General POA?
In some circumstances, the principal might decide to cancel the POA. There are several ways to revoke the document. However, the principal must be mentally stable to exercise the decision. You can cancel it by writing a revocation letter that states intention and make sure you notarize it. Distribute the revocation document to all the parties involved who had copies of the original POA.
If you had filled a POA but never gave out copies, you can destroy it by tearing or burning the form. Another option is to write a new POA and revoke any other existing forms if any.
How to Choose an Agent for a General POA
The most critical part of a POS is selecting an agent, the person who will execute the powers given to him or her. Hence, it would be best to exercise extreme caution because your agent can make or break your life. There are some essential questions you need to ask about the specific person you intend to appoint as your agent.
- Is the person reliable, competent, and financially responsible?
- Will the person agree to act as your agent?
- Will the agent need any compensation?
General POA Questions
- Should I notarize a general POA?
Yes, you must sign the form in the presence of a certified legal officer who will imprint a seal for validation purposes.
- How many witnesses should sign the POA form?
You must have at least two witnesses to oversee the POA execution.
- Must the agent be a lawyer?
No. The individual you assign as your agent doesn’t have to be a lawyer. You have the freedom to appoint anyone as long as the person is competent, reliable, and is willing to take up the responsibility.
- How many agents must be appointed in the POA form?
You can appoint one, but it is better to have more than one attorney for safety and flexibility. Two agents can work jointly or on behalf of the other in case of unavailability.
General POA vs. Durable POA
It is vital to understand the types of POA before you fill out a form. The most common are the durable and general POA. A durable POA states that the powers you assign to your agent remain valid even when you die or become incapacitated. In a general POA, the powers you give become void upon your death, incapacitation, or revocations.