What Is A Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document that grants decision-making authority to an agent or attorney-in-fact. The principal is the person giving the authority, and the agent is the person accepting the authority. The agent does not actually need to be an attorney—just an individual the principal trusts.

How To Draft a Power of Attorney in Washington, DC?

The Maryland legislature passed the Maryland General and Limited Power of Attorney Act in 2010. This statute sets forth the requirements for both the principal and the agent.

1. Select an agent
First, you must select a trusted person to be your agent. You may also select a second agent to fill in if the first agent is no longer able to do so. Agents have a great responsibility, so selecting someone you trust is critical.

2. Determine the power of attorney type and scope
Do you want a financial power of attorney or healthcare power of attorney? Do you want to give broad authority to your agent, or do you want to enumerate specific powers more limited in scope? If you want an agent to make decisions regarding both finances and healthcare, you must have two separate power of attorney documents; under Maryland law, a single document that purports to grant both types is not legally valid.

3. Create a power of attorney document
Any document that grants authority to another person to act on behalf of yourself can be a power of attorney. However, Maryland has created a specific kind of power of attorney, called a Statutory Form Limited Power of Attorney, and has a template available for use. Alternatively, an online service provider can help you create a power of attorney. In the document, the principal should be as specific as possible about what kind of authority the power of attorney grants.

4. Execute the power of attorney
In order to finalize the power of attorney, the principal must sign the document in front of a notary public and two adult witnesses. The witnesses must also sign the document in front of the principal. Unless otherwise noted, the power of attorney immediately takes effect upon execution.

A power of attorney grants an agent or attorney-in-fact the authority to make important decisions for the principal. It can be a broad, or general, power of attorney, or it can be a limited power of attorney, which permits the agent to make only certain kinds of decisions, manage specific accounts, or carry out particular transactions. Maryland’s Office of the Attorney General provides a template for a limited power of attorney.