Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Full Bio →

Written by

UPDATED: Dec 13, 2019

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

Making the decision to set up a power of attorney agreement to ensure that your affairs are handled is one of the most responsible things you can do for yourself. Once you’ve made the decision, and chosen a person to handle certain decisions on your behalf, there are a few simple steps you must do to legally ensure the agreement is completed and valid. The frequently asked questions below help clear up the process and answer some common questions that are often raised.

Q: Can I specify in my power of attorney agreement what decisions I want the person to make, and when?

A: Yes. The power of attorney agreement is flexible and the terms are up to you. You may want the person (known as your agent) to act only in the event that you are incapable of making the decisions yourself, such as in the event of death or illness. Or perhaps you only want the agent to handle specific decisions, such as those related to finances or specific legal matters. What is important is to specify all of this in your power of attorney documents, and to speak carefully with your agent to ensure that he or she understands the agreement, too. If you have any doubts about how to word something or whether your agreement is clear, a quick conversation with a local estate planning lawyer is well worth the effort.

Q: What are the basic steps for setting up the documents for power of attorney agreements?

A: There are several steps you need to take, although the rules can differ slightly from state to state. Generally, you must:

    1) Obtain the required forms, either from a local lawyer’s office or via any source that offers legal documents. Many forms are easily found online for low prices and can be downloaded or shipped to you. 2) Fill out the forms thoroughly, ask a lawyer if you have questions, and go over them with your agent to ensure everything is clear and agreed upon. 3) Have the papers notarized. With your agent, visit a local notary public and sign the papers in the presence of the notary. You can usually find a notary at your bank or at any law office. 4) Make copies of the agreement and file them in safe places: perhaps in a safe deposit box or along with other paperwork like your will, or with your family lawyer. Give the original copy to your agent so that he or she has legal proof that he is entitled to act on your behalf in the specified situations.

Q: Can I change my mind after I’ve set up power of attorney?

A: Yes. If your change of mind is temporary, meaning you simply want to handle a particular decision yourself, you are free to step in at any time, provided you are mentally capable of doing so – your word will automatically override that of your agent’s. Should you wish to change your mind on a more permanent basis, the power of attorney agreement can be revoked at any time.

An Estate Planning Attorney Can Help Establish Your Power of Attorney

To make sure your power of attorney assignment is valid and enforceable, you may want to contact a qualified estate planning attorney and have the lawyer help you set up your power of attorney documents. Your lawyer can explain to you the different options for setting up a power of attorney agreement and can help you make sure that you establish an arrangement that will meet your needs now and in the future.