How to Obtain and Use a Power of Attorney: Step-by-Step Guide

Learn how to obtain and use a Power of Attorney with our complete step-by-step guide. Ensure your affairs are managed effectively by choosing the right type of

How to Obtain and Use a Power of Attorney: Step-by-Step Guide

How to Obtain and Use a Power of Attorney: Step-by-Step Guide

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document that grants one person the authority to act on behalf of another in legal or financial matters. Understanding how to obtain and use a Power of Attorney is crucial for managing your affairs or helping a loved one. This step-by-step guide will walk you through the process, from understanding what a POA is, to creating one, and finally using it effectively.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you (the principal) to designate another person (the agent or attorney-in-fact) to manage your affairs if you become unable to do so. The authority granted can be broad or limited to specific tasks. There are different types of POAs, including:

  • General Power of Attorney: Grants broad powers to the agent.
  • Special or Limited Power of Attorney: Grants specific powers limited to particular tasks.
  • Durable Power of Attorney: Remains in effect even if the principal becomes incapacitated.
  • Springing Power of Attorney: Comes into effect only under specified conditions, such as the principal’s incapacitation.

Step 1: Determine the Type of Power of Attorney You Need

The first step is to determine which type of POA suits your needs. If you need someone to manage all your affairs, a general POA might be appropriate. For specific tasks, like selling property, a special POA is ideal. For long-term planning, a durable POA ensures your affairs are handled even if you become incapacitated.

Step 2: Choose a Trustworthy Agent

Selecting a trustworthy agent is crucial, as this person will have significant control over your affairs. Consider someone who is reliable, financially savvy, and has your best interests at heart. It could be a family member, a close friend, or a professional such as an attorney.

Step 3: Draft the Power of Attorney Document

Drafting the POA document can be done in several ways:

  • Use an attorney: An attorney can ensure the document meets all legal requirements and addresses your specific needs.
  • Online legal services: Many websites offer templates and services to create a POA. Ensure the service is reputable and the document complies with your state's laws.
  • DIY forms: You can find free templates online, but be cautious and ensure they are legally valid in your jurisdiction.

Step 4: Include Specific Instructions

Clearly outline the powers you are granting to your agent. Be specific about the tasks they can perform, such as managing bank accounts, selling property, or making healthcare decisions. Detail any limitations or conditions under which these powers can be exercised.

Step 5: Sign and Notarize the Document

After drafting the POA, you and your agent must sign the document. Most states require the POA to be notarized to be legally binding. Some states also require witnesses. Check your state’s requirements to ensure compliance.

Step 6: Distribute Copies of the Power of Attorney

Once the POA is signed and notarized, distribute copies to relevant parties. These may include:

  • Your agent: They need a copy to act on your behalf.
  • Financial institutions: Banks and other financial entities may require a copy to allow your agent to manage your accounts.
  • Healthcare providers: If your POA includes medical decisions, provide a copy to your doctors.
  • Family members: Informing close family members helps avoid confusion or disputes.

Step 7: Understand How to Use the Power of Attorney

Using a POA involves presenting the document to the relevant entities to prove the agent’s authority. The agent should:

  • Keep the original document: Always have the original or certified copies ready.
  • Act in the principal’s best interest: The agent must act responsibly and in the principal’s best interest.
  • Keep records: Maintain detailed records of all transactions and decisions made on behalf of the principal.
  • Communicate with the principal: Keep the principal informed of actions taken, if possible.

Step 8: Revoke or Update the Power of Attorney if Necessary

Circumstances may change, and you may need to revoke or update your POA. To do so, create a written revocation, notify your agent and all relevant parties, and consider drafting a new POA if needed. Ensure the revocation is legally binding by following your state’s requirements.


Obtaining and using a Power of Attorney is a vital step in managing your affairs or assisting a loved one. By following this step-by-step guide, you can ensure that your POA is properly established and used effectively. Always consult with legal professionals if you have any doubts or need specific advice tailored to your situation. A well-prepared POA provides peace of mind, knowing that your affairs are in capable hands.