Completing a Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney (POA) is one type of advance directive that allows you to authorize another person to act on your behalf. POA's are not just for people who are sick or old. If something happened to you and you ended up in the hospital, how would your bills get paid, or your other personal business taken care of? This series goes over the Power of Attorney form, including the options allowed and walks through filling out each section

Authored By: Alaska Legal Services - Anchorage

What you need to know before completing the form: What Happens After A Power of Attorney Form is Signed


Power of Attorney Series


Power of Attorney Series

What Happens After a Power of Attorney Form is Signed?

First, remember that the form is not valid unless it is signed in front of a notary. Once it is signed and notarized, your POA is a valid legal document – and, a copy of your POA document is just as valid as the original.  It’s probably best to keep the original yourself.  Make sure the document is kept in a safe and secure place, and that your family or other important people know where to find it, or who to ask, should something happen to you. This is especially important if you have a “springing” POA.  

Giving a copy to your agent.

Your agent will need to show the valid POA when he/she is acting on your behalf, so your agent will need a copy.  It’s best to give the agent a copy right away.  If you want your agent to begin using the POA immediately, he or she will need a copy to do that.  The same applies if you’ve chosen to have your POA be a “springing” POA, as you might not be in a condition to provide a copy to your agent when you become incapacitated.  If you’ve chosen to have the POA become effective upon your signature, but you don’t want or need your agent to do anything until you need help, you can give the POA document to your agent and tell the person not to use it unless you ask him to, or are unconscious or unable to act for yourself.  If it is not a “springing” POA, your agent can use the Power of Attorney as soon as he or she receives it.  You can wait to give your agent a copy until you want her to start using it, but if you can’t trust the person to follow your wishes now, that person probably should not be your agent. 

Giving a copy to others

Additional copies of your POA can go to other places you have dealings with, such as your bank, your landlord, or state agencies.  These people and places are “third parties”.  You can do this right away, so they have it on record, or you can rely on your agent to present a copy when he or she needs to do your business. 

Third parties generally must honor a valid POA when it is presented.  But they are also allowed to ask the agent to certify certain information, or to ask for a legal opinion about the form before accepting the POA.  If a third party won’t honor a valid POA, they may be held liable for damages suffered by the principal.  The third party does have some protection though. If there’s no reasonable reason to doubt what the agent is telling them, a third party is not liable for the results of letting the agent take action according to the authority given in the POA. Finally, there are some special circumstances that allow a third party to refuse a POA. Generally, these circumstances are for the protection of the principal.

Recording the POA

If you want, you can record your POA document with the state’s Recorder’s Office, but this is entirely optional, and it costs money.  The form should not be filed with the court system. 

Is my POA valid everywhere?

Although every state has its own Power of Attorney form, if a POA is validly executed in Alaska, every other state should recognize it. However, as a practical matter, if you winter outside of Alaska on a regular basis, you may want to renew the POA in your winter state, since people will be more familiar with the form in the state they are located. Just be sure the form contains the same information as your Alaska POA form. Likewise, if you already have a POA from another state, it should be recognized as valid in Alaska. But once again, it might be a good idea to complete an Alaskan POA, assuming you still have the mental capacity to do so.

Also, be aware that many federal agencies will not recognize a state POA. Many agencies have their own specific form.  The reason for this is because federal programs operate in 50 different states plus territories. Each state has its own POA form and federal agency people can’t be expected to be familiar with every state form. They don’t want to read the entire document to see whether an agent has a valid authority to act on behalf of the principal.

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