A Power of Attorney is a commonly used document that is sometimes misunderstood. Specifically, a Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives a person over the age of 18 the power to act on another person’s behalf. The person who is appointed is known as the “Attorney-in-Fact” or the agent. The person authorizing the Power of Attorney is known as the Principal. Anyone who is over 18 and is of sound mind can be either the agent or the Principal.
There are several different types of Powers of Attorneys. A General Power of Attorney delegates unlimited authority to the agent to act on behalf of the Principal. A Special Power of Attorney delegates limited authority to the agent, for specific purposes. A Parental Power of Attorney authorizes the agent to temporarily exercise parental authority. A Durable Power of Attorney allows the Power of Attorney to remain in effect or take effect if the principal becomes disabled or incapacitated.
A Power of Attorney should be notarized when it is executed. The document does not have to be recorded, but may be to enable those who rely on its existence to verify the document and to have it on record in the event it is lost or destroyed. The document becomes effective when it is signed in front of the notary.
There are some things that a Power of Attorney does not do. It does not authorize the agent to appear in court as an attorney-at-law on behalf of the principal. It does not defeat an existing court order or circumvent court proceedings, such as custody disputes. It does not allow the agent to sign a will or get married on behalf of the principal. It does not prevent the Principal from doing business on his or her own behalf.
A Power of Attorney may be revoked at any time and for any reason. The revocation must be done in writing and copies should be distributed to anyone who was relying on the Power of Attorney. The revocation should also be recorded if the Power of Attorney was recorded. It is wise to have a specific termination date written in the Power of Attorney itself.
Power of Attorney forms are available for downloading on many Arizona court websites.
Donna J. Grimsley is a judge in Apache County Superior Court.