Power of Attorney vs a Will
There are many types of Power of Attorney documents. However, the general theme is that someone is granting authority to someone else. A Will contains the maker’s words, directives and decisions. The executor of a Will is not a decider of asset allocation, rather a facilitator of the deceased’s allocation desires. In contrast to a Will, the Agent of the Principal (of a Power of Attorney) “may” have the authority to “call the shots” – or, the Agent may be severely constrained. Usually the Agent has “some” authority to sign for the Principal. In almost all cases, the authority granted by a Power of Attorney ceases upon the Principal’s death. The Principal granting power to the Agent may revoke such power at any time unless incapacitated. A Will can also be revoked, until Probate…..
Lifespan of the Power of Attorney
The Durable Power of Attorney – (General or Limited) remains in effect when the Principal becomes incapacitated. If the Power of Attorney is not Durable, the authority of the Agent does not exist if the Principal is in no condition to revoke the authority.
The Springing Power of Attorney – Similar to the Durable, the Springing only “comes into effect” when the Principal is incapacitated. As the definition of incapacitation can vary, the specific definition of the “trigger” should be specified in detail in the document itself.
Scope of the Power of Attorney
The General Power of Attorney – This allows the Agent to sign the name of the Principal unless it’s illegal for them to do so. One example: you can’t grant power for someone to sign your notary signature. If the word Durable is included, the power remains unless revoked or death of the Principal.
The Limited Power of Attorney – (sometimes called a Special Power of Attorney) grants from Principal to Agent authority to perform specific actions. Often this format contains an expiration date. Commonly used with loan documents, authority is granted for the Agent to sign various paperwork related to obtaining real estate.
Entitlement of Agent to Receive Payment
Unrelated to the “Gift Rider”; when the Agent manages (in some jurisdictions) property, they have a statutory right to be paid. Amounts vary, but a very rough guideline (unless otherwise specified) is:
3% of money received by the attorney,
3% of money paid out by the attorney on your behalf, and
3/5 of 1% of the average annual value of the assets covered under your power of attorney.
In personal transactions, the Agent has no right to be paid unless specified by the Principal. In some cases, the Agent applies to the Court to allow payment for Agent Services. In the vast majority of what we will see as Notary Publics, payment is rarely a concern or specified. When a payment arrangement exists, it will usually be part of a separate contract and not contained in the distributed Power of Attorney.
How the Agent uses their Authority
Assume Lock is giving Key an Agent relationship. Key would probable use one of the following formats:
Lock by Key as Attorney-In-Fact
Key as Attorney-In-Fact for Lock
Opinions vary, I prefer the first example because Lock is written first matching the “under the line”.
Considerations for the Notary
ID – Follow your jurisdiction requirements – To The Letter. Power of Attorney documents can easily be litigated in a court. Look very closely at the ID, if it’s a 35 year ago picture does it look like the affiant?
Capability – a tough one, but I like to ask why they are signing, what does this document do?
Initials – Almost never required, but let’s think about it a bit. Initials are mainly used to acknowledge seeing a page. But, I submit they also “mark” a specific page as having been accepted. While I don’t suggest affiants to initial each page (Principal, Agent(s), Monitor(s) and Successor Agent(s)) – I would insist upon it if I was the Principal and not the Notary.
Blank Lines – The Principal should consider a N/A in each not-applicable area. For example: there is usually an area for the “second agent”. If this was subsequently completed, and a “loose ack” added to the document – it might appear that the second agent was approved by the Principal.
Oath – I know, many do not bother to administer an oath. On Power of Attorney documents ya better!
Suggest More, Earn More – Under most jurisdictions, a photocopy of a notarized document – is Not a notarized document. One copy will suffice for a task specific use, as in a Signing. However, a general care giver might need many copies. It is likely that a financial institution will require an original for them to permit the Agent to use their power(s). Your client might not know this, often they assume a photo copy will work the same as an original that was “wet signed” and embossed. A few dollars for each extra copy is a value to your client and might add up to some Sesame Chicken for you.
Witnesses – rare for Power of Attorney but does occur. I feel the witnesses should also be notarized whenever possible. The California “Long Form” Acknowledgement is perfect for this as it has specific areas to associate the “loose ack” to witnessing the document.
I receive many calls for processing Power of Attorney documents. Often the caller is somewhat angry about their recent notary experience. They relate that the notary at the bank refused to notarize a totally legal to process document, it’s bank policy – they relate. The bank does not want their “deep pockets” as part of litigation. These are much more likely to be contested than an application for a passport.
It’s not often, but sometimes someone wants me to notarize their self written Power of Attorney. Of course I can do that, but I caution them that, in the majority of my experience – the document is not in a state specific standard form. Furthermore, your document might not be accepted as you intend. I am willing to proceed, but you have been cautioned that it might not suffice. They can make an informed decision.
Sometimes for a Power of Attorney signing I receive a copy (photocopy or via email) of the relevant Power of Attorney. They send it so I can “verify” and “accept” the Agent signing for the Principal. It is my opinion that I have no requirement to see that document. First, I am not an Attorney, and “technically” am not qualified to judge, read, or take any action; even if the original “wet signed” was submitted. Nor would I be in a position to know if the authority had been revoked, or if the Principal is deceased. When I notarize “Lock by Key as Attorney-in-Fact” – I am notarizing Key – only. Key is stating explicitly, and under oath (I think – it gets a bit fuzzy here, I’m not an attorney) that Key currently has AIF authority.
At the start of this blog entry I mentioned Lifespan and Scope and covered the more commonly used documents. Note that their characteristics can be combined in multiple ways. I think there could be, of the ones covered Four Factorial permutations: 4 * 3 * 2 *1 = 24 variations! This is one document that I never want to have to read and explain (with liability!) to those I will notarize.
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