How to Sign Documents as a Power of Attorney Agent
A Power of Attorney is a legal document that grants one person the authority to act or make decisions on behalf of the person creating the Power of Attorney. The person chosen to make decisions is called the “agent” or “attorney in fact,” and the person creating and signing the Power of Attorney is called the “principal.” A Power of Attorney can be broad, granting the ability to make all decisions on behalf of the principal, or it can be quite narrow and limited to only one category of decision-making, such as medical care.
If you have been granted Power of Attorney as the agent for someone you know, you might have some questions about how to carry out your responsibilities. Read the Power of Attorney document carefully so that you understand when your authority begins, right away or at some later time, and whether the scope of your authority is broad or specific. As an agent, you may need to sign documents on behalf of the principal. The following information covers questions about who may sign, and how to sign, as a Power of Attorney agent.
The only person legally authorized to sign as a Power of Attorney agent is the individual named as the agent in the Power of Attorney document. In many cases, the principal will name alternate, or backup, agents in case the first choice becomes unavailable for some reason. It is possible to name two or more people to serve at the same time as agents, but it isn’t always recommended because of the potential for conflict.
If you are not the only agent, you will need to find out if you are a concurrent or a joint agent with the others named in the Power of Attorney. Concurrent agents may act independently of one another. Joint agents make decisions together and need to find a way to come to an agreement if there are conflicting opinions. Instructions for how conflicts will be resolved are sometimes included in the Power of Attorney. You might consider asking a lawyer if you have a question about how to resolve conflicts with other agents.
What is the correct way to sign as a Power of Attorney?
First, before you head out for any meetings where you’ll need to sign as an agent on behalf of the principal, make sure that you bring your copy of the Power of Attorney with you. While the principal may have filed copies of the agreement with medical offices and financial institutions, it is best to have a copy in case they request it (whether to compare the two or in case their copy cannot be found). You may want to call ahead and verify whether there are any other documents or forms of identification that you need to bring with you. For example, you’ll want to bring at least a photo identification, such as a driver’s license or identification card, in order to verify your identity.
The proper way to sign as an agent is to first sign the principal’s full legal name, then write the word “by,” and then sign your name. You may also want to show that you are signing as an agent by writing after the signature: Agent, Attorney in Fact, Power of Attorney, or POA.
When an agent signs a document, their signature has the same legal effect as the principal. This means that any agreements entered into, decisions made, or transactions carried out are just as legally binding as if the principal had signed the document.
Most institutions or agencies will have their own specific formatting requirements regarding how to sign as a Power of Attorney agent. The reason for this is so that they can keep track of the circumstances under which documents were signed, in case there is any dispute at a future time. You may be able to determine in advance what format is preferred by calling before your appointment or meeting and asking.
The principal’s name will always appear first, as you are signing on their behalf.
Sam Jones, by Catherine Spalding, agent
Richard Smith, by Megan Smith, attorney in fact
Diego Martinez, by Maria Espinoza, POA
Sheryl Rodriguez, by Jose Sanchez, power of attorney
Serving as the agent to make decisions, sign documents, or act on behalf of someone else can be a big responsibility. If you have questions about serving as a Power of Attorney agent, you may want to ask a lawyer.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.