A Power of Attorney (POA) is a notarized, legal document your loved one drafts (usually with a lawyer’s help) while she is legally competent. In it, she gives someone legal authority to act on her behalf and make decisions for her when she is unable to do so.

If you are named as POA (or attorney-in-fact), here are three things you should know before you sign anything on your loved one’s behalf:

 

  1. Never sign only your name. You must make it clear that you are signing as POA. Years ago when I wrote about nursing home litigation, I read a case where a family member signed a nursing home admission form but forgot to indicate he was POA. He ended up being personally liable for paying the nursing home’s bills.
  1. The American Bar Association says there are two ways to sign as POA:
  • Jane Doe, attorney-in-fact for John Smith
  • John Smith, by Jane Doe under POA
  1. Despite what the ABA says, financial institutions may have their own rules for how you need to sign. Ask in advance and keep a list of the institutions (financial, health care, etc.) and their requirements so you don’t have to ask repeatedly.