How to Create a Durable Financial
Power of Attorney without a Lawyer
Here’s a legal step Barbara took after accepting the reality that she might not always be able to do everything herself.
Many people, especially older adults, are uncomfortable about discussing death or dying, but we’re all going to die one day, not necessarily because we’ve grown old. Any one of us could have an accident or unsuspected medical problem that could render us incapacitated and unable to manage our financial affairs or our life in general.
Don’t you agree that it’s prudent to have a plan in place to enable a loved one to act on your behalf if the need arises? That’s exactly what a Financial Power of Attorney will do for you and is now doing for me. Appointing someone I trust to legally act for me if I’m temporarily unable to pay my bills or deal with other financial responsibilities gives me great peace of mind.
You do not need an attorney to create a Durable POA document for yourself or a loved one, but there’s more to making it legal than downloading a free POA form and filling it out. Here’s what I learned while doing this for myself with the help of my youngest sister, who is now my Attorney-in-Fact” and executor of my estate. (I’ve always believed in having a backup plan, and this is it.)
Understand that I am not offering legal advice here; merely sharing my personal experience. (See my website’s Legal Disclaimer here.)
Finding the Right Website for Free POA Forms
An online search will reveal many websites Offering free Power of Attorney forms for various purposes. But I found that most of these free e-form websites come with a caveat: you can create a document on the site or just download the form you want, but only after you select a free or premium subscription and enter a credit card number. The free version is good for a limited time, and if you don’t cancel the subscription after you get the POA form you created or downloaded, your credit card will be charged monthly until you do. Not liking that idea, I kept looking until I found what I wanted.
A truly FREE “Durable Financial Power of Attorney Form” will be found here. (This site also offers POA forms for financial, medical, child (minor), real estate, and tax. All I had to do was select my state and click to download either a PDF or Microsoft Word (.docx) document.
Note that you control the amount of financial power you give your agent (Attorney-in-Fact) by checking and initialing the various boxes on the form. The only thing this particular POA form lacks is a specific area where you can name an alternate representative who will act if the person you’ve named is unable to act on your behalf. Just scroll down on the form and look for the section that reads:
“SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS: On the following lines are any special instructions limiting or extending the powers I give to my attorney-in-fact.”
In this area, I wrote: “If the agent dies or can’t make decisions, I appoint as successor agent [name and address of the individual you wish to appoint].”
A Three-Step Process
STEP ONE: Download and complete the form.
STEP TWO: Have the form notarized and signed by two witnesses. (My bank, a credit union, did this for me without charge and provided the necessary two witnesses.)
STEP THREE: The person who notarized the document didn’t tell me it needed to be recorded in the County Clerk’s office, but my sister knew this, and we finished the process the same day. Note that it is this step that makes a notarized POA form legal should one’s heirs want to fight it. It’s also essential if real estate property is involved.
The Recording Process
A medical POA document doesn’t need to be recorded with your County Clerk, but a financial POA that includes real estate does because the information in the county recorder’s office is used to verify one’s ownership of property.
The county clerk-recorder will check all details of the notarized form you submit, and if anything is missing, it will be completed to meet your state’s legal requirements. What mine lacked was a legal description of my property (parcel number and exact location). Recording the document cost $65, and I was advised that I’d get an email confirming payment and a copy of the final legal document by mail within two weeks.
Below, additional related information you may find helpful.
How to Create Legal Documents without a Lawyer. In my September 2022 Brabec Bulletin blog post, I discussed the Durable Financial Power of Attorney doc, the Financial Data Book I’ve kept for years, the importance of a Last Will and Testament, and the Advance Healthcare Directive, or Living Will.
Help a Loved One Make a Power of Attorney. Watching a loved one decline is hard enough by itself, but the process can become a nightmare if that loved one hasn't set up powers of attorney for healthcare and finances.
Benefits of a Durable Power of Attorney. This article will answer many questions you may have. Note that this article’s last sentence reads: “Remember – a DPOA is not just for old folks. In fact, legal experts advise that everyone over the age of 18 should have one.”
Money Matters T/C