Does a Power of Attorney need to be notarized?

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If you are like many Americans, you probably do not think about the Power of Attorney (POA) or durable power of attorney until you actually need one. But what’s a power of attorney? Why do you need it? And when should you use it? You may have other questions: Does a power of attorney need to be notarized? Does a notarized document expire? 

We can define a power of attorney as an important legal document that formally appoints a designated person or legal entity with the authorization to make financial, legal, or medical decisions on behalf of another individual. This person is called the attorney in fact. Usually, those decisions include the grantor’s personal property, medical care, and finances. A durable power of attorney document remains in effect if you become ill or incapacitated, such as because of an accident or disease.  On the other hand, an ordinary or “nondurable” power of attorney document automatically ends if the individual who makes them loses mental capacity.

When you take a legal document, such as a POA, to a notary public to get it notarized, the notary public will stamp and sign that document. This confirms that the legal document is genuine.

A power of attorney is a legal document that a person creates to give another person, an attorney in fact, the power to make decisions for him in case he is unable to make decisions. Getting a power of attorney notarized affirms that your document is real and increases its credibility.

A power of attorney, as a legal document, is all about protection and authority. Anyone who is mentally competent can create a power of attorney document without the help of a lawyer. Note that depending on their situation, the grantor might want to consult with a lawyer to ensure that their POA covers all their unique needs and requirements.

However, it is worth noting that laws and regulations about executing durable power of attorney documents can vary from one state to another. Once you are mentally incapacitated or incapable of making important decisions, you can’t execute legal documents.

State laws and rules typically fall into four main categories when it comes to notarizations for POAs:

  • US states that require the signature of the principal be notarized
  • US states that require one or two witnesses in order to sign the documents
  • US states that require the presence of both witnesses
  • US states that offer the option of notarization and witness signature

5 types of power of attorney 

There are many different kinds of POA. This means they vary according to how much control and discretion they grant the agent. POAs can also differ by when they take effect and how long they last.

Powers of attorney documents generally come in five types, including the durable POA, general POA, and the medical or healthcare POA. You may know that these agreements are often used in real estate transactions, financial matters, such as banking, investments, and insurance, and personal and legal matters, such as establishing estates and trusts. Learn how you can notarize real estate purchase agreements. 

Whenever you appoint an attorney you have to make a number of choices about the types of decisions the attorney can make on your behalf and when the attorney may act for you. You must consider these options and have an appropriate power of attorney that suits your needs.

1.   Durable power of attorney

A durable power of attorney, sometimes known as an enduring POA, must be created when you are mentally competent.  After its creation, the document is valid whether or not you are competent or not. This means that it remains in effect even if you become incapable of making your own decisions.

On the other hand, an ordinary POA is valid as long as you are competent. This arrangement designates another individual – the attorney in fact – to act on the principal’s behalf, including a durable clause that maintains the POA after the principal becomes mentally ill or incapacitated. 

If you create an enduring POA, you can decide who you would like to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf when you can’t make them yourself. However, without an enduring power of attorney, your next-of-kin or some other interested party would have to make a formal court application for adult guardianship so they can act for you.

In most cases, a durable POA form is used for protecting a principal’s legal and financial affairs in the case of an unforeseen event or circumstance. However, it’s sometimes also used when you are still capable of making your own decisions but are otherwise not able to do so.

Non-durable power of attorney

The non-durable POA is used only for a specific period and usually for a particular legal or financial transaction where you grant your agent or attorney in fact the authority to act on your behalf.

However, keep in mind that a non-durable POA document does not last forever and once the transaction is complete, or should the principal become mentally ill or incapacitated during this time, the non-durable POA ceases. In other words, a non-durable POA is used when you get somebody to act on your behalf for a certain event when you cannot be present yourself.

2.   Springing power of attorney

A springing power of attorney is quite similar to an immediate POA. This is because it works when you are incapacitated. The only difference is that it “springs” or comes into effect once you meet all the conditions you set in order to declare yourself legally incompetent.

You should know that this type of POA can be non-durable or durable and can cover any number and types of affairs the principal wants to assign to their agent. If you are considering a springing POA, it is best to speak to your lawyers or estate attorney about the situation before getting the document notarized.

3.   General power of attorney

When you create a general POA, your agent can perform almost any act on your behalf, such as opening financial and bank accounts or managing your personal finances. General POAs can be either non-durable or durable, depending on your needs and preferences.

A general POA arrangement is terminated when you become incapacitated, revoke the POA, or pass away. 

4. Financial power of attorney

A financial POA document allows your agent to manage your business and financial affairs, such as managing bank accounts, signing checks, filing tax returns, and mailing and depositing Social Security checks. A financial POA is a kind of special or limited POA.

This is because it gives your agent authority to act on your behalf with respect to certain matters of your choice. Financial POAs are usually divided into several categories, such as general POA, limited POA, and durable POA, and vary based on the relevant state law.

5. Medical power of attorney

A medical POA is also called a healthcare POA. It is another kind of limited or special power of attorney and grants authority to your agent to take specific control over your healthcare decisions should you become mentally incapacitated or unable to do so.

This document is also known as a health care proxy and outlines your consent to give your POA privileges in the event of an unfortunate or unforeseen medical condition.

A medical POA allows your agent to make healthcare or medical decisions on your behalf. This may include crucial decisions about your healthcare, such as:

  • Medical treatments
  • Surgery
  • Medication
  • End-of-life care

For instance, if you are too ill to let your doctors know whether you would like to receive a feeding tube, your agent has the authority to make this decision for you.

Does a power of attorney need to be notarized? 

Because of their importance and sensitive nature, POA documents often have to be signed in front of a notary public or an attorney to be legally binding. The laws tend to vary from one state to another as to what’s required to properly notarize a document, such as a power of attorney.

For example, the laws in South Dakota will likely be different from those in New York. Some states only need the principal’s signature to be notarized. In contrast, other states may require either your or a witness’s signature to be notarized.

Learn how to notarize an electronic signature. It is advisable to get familiar with your respective state’s rules and laws concerning the notarization of this important document and go through helpful resources to make the right decision.

Why notarize a power of attorney? 

When a financial or business document is notarized, a notary public verifies that the signature on that document is real, and signs and seals it with their notary stamp or official seal. While it isn’t a legal requirement to have your power of attorney notarized, there are many good reasons and benefits of getting it notarized anyway.

Keep in mind that notarizing your POA assures other people and entities that the signatures on the document are genuine and that the documents and forms are legitimate. This is important as it makes it less likely that the validity of your POA will be challenged or questioned.

Also, many financial institutions, such as banks and credit unions, and other financial institutions will not accept POAs for property transactions unless they are duly notarized.

Where to get power of attorney notarized?

Wondering who can notarize a document? A power of attorney can usually be notarized in the following locations:

Online or through an app like PandaDoc Notary

  • Your bank
  • A local notary
  • Financial planner’s office
  • Accountant’s office
  • Attorney’s office
  • Local post office

There are traveling notaries as well who will come to your location or home to witness your document signing. However, the most convenient, secure, and private way is to use online or remote online notarization (RON).  Once restricted to a handful of US states, RON and mobile notary services have become prevalent in the wake of the COVID-19 health pandemic.

How to notarize a power of attorney?

You should complete the form in accordance with all state requirements and laws. Your POA document must meet certain basic requirements. The document must clearly identify the principal and use their full legal name. It must also identify the agent or attorney in fact (the individual who is granted specified powers).

Take the following steps: 

  1. Upload your power of attorney document. However, don’t sign the document before uploading it. 
  2. Validate your identity.
  3. When ready, you can connect with a notary public using an online platform.
  4. Sign using your smartphone or computer while the notary watches over video.
  5. Wait for the notary public to notarize your POA document online 
  6. You can download and share your notarized POA.

Some simple steps involved in getting a POA notarized through PandaDoc Notary include:

Step 1: Upload your documents

You can take a picture of your power of attorney document or upload a PDF file from your computer. You can also upload from a cloud storage service, such as Dropbox. No matter the time of day or location, or device, PandaDoc Notary has notaries ready to complete all your notary requests!

Step 2: Confirm your ID

Now, you just have to confirm your identity with PandaDoc’s verification process. The platform uses identification verification technology in order to verify government-issued photograph IDs and passports.

Step 3: Connect to a commissioned notary

You can connect to a live notary anytime and confirm your identity on a secure call or face-to-face on a webcam. Connect easily with a professional and licensed electronic notary public over live video in order to sign and notarize your power of attorney. The PandaDoc Notary agent will verify your identity and witness your signature, assisting you throughout the process.

Notarize a power of attorney online with PandaDoc Notary

If you are 18 or above and have the mental capacity to make financial, legal, property, or medical decisions for yourself, it is possible to arrange for someone else to make these important decisions for you. 

The simple way to formally authenticate your POA document is to use a notary public. You should know that notary publics in the US use the notarial act in order to add a level of protection to the documentation. However, now, you can also notarize a POA online 24/7 from any computer or smartphone.  Using PandaDoc Notary, notaries have access to all the tools they need in order to complete RON transactions securely through an encrypted audio-visual session.  

Use PandaDoc Notary to notarize a power of attorney and other legal documents remotely. Contact us to learn how we can help you with your notarization needs.

FAQ’s

Is it necessary to notarize a power of attorney?

While it is not necessary to notarize your power of attorney, it makes sense to do so. This is because as POAs allow someone to make major life decisions, they can be abused.  An agent or attorney in fact who does not use a POA as you intended can face criminal charges of forgery, fraud, and theft. So, proper notarization is one of the best and simplest ways to protect yourself against the risk of forgery and fraud.

Is power of attorney valid without a notary? 

Yes, the power of attorney is valid without a notary. Some US states legally require notarization for a POA to be valid and enforceable. However, even in some states where it’s not needed, it is better to consider seeking out a notary.

Can you notarize the power of attorney for a family member? 

Many people want to know if they can notarize for family. You may notarize a POA as long as you don’t have a financial or beneficial interest in the document and aren’t a party to the transaction.

Can you notarize your own power of attorney? 

In short, you cannot notarize your own document. Even if you have the technical understanding and knowledge, it is against notary laws in the US to certify your own paperwork, including your own power of attorney. 

Is unregistered power of attorney valid?

An unregistered power attorney is not valid in case of sale or transfer of immovable properties.If a person executes a power of attorney under duress, they can revoke it and file criminal complaint.

When should I register a power of attorney? 

A power of attorney document does not have to be registered in the public records to be effective. However, it should be in writing and duly notarized. You should register it as soon as the power conferred by the document has to be exercised.

How much will it cost to notarize a POA?

Depending on where you reside, notary public fees can be as low as $20. Fees range from $3 to $10 per signature. Also, some notaries will come to clients who are hospitalized, seriously ill, or unable to travel. 

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