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A power of attorney is an important legal document you will need for a comprehensive estate plan. This legal instrument gives a third-party the legal authority to make certain types of decisions on your behalf in the case of you being incapacitated for one reason or another. How much authority you give can range from being broad, pertaining to any matters allowed by relevant law to being limited to certain matters, such as financial and medical decisions. 

The following are the different ways you can go about setting up a power of attorney to make sure you are taken care of in the case of being unexpectedly incapacitated. 

Do it yourself 

In theory it is possible to set up a power of attorney yourself without the help of a legal professional. There are power of attorney document templates you can purchase online. You may have to customize the templates to fit your particular situation. 

Make sure to fully research relevant laws to ensure the terms laid out in your power of attorney document are legally enforceable in your particular state. 

Hire an attorney 

Of course, it is usually a better idea to find a legal professional to handle such a complex and consequential legal instrument. Finding an estate planning attorney who has the experience and knowledge to guide you through the process can be valuable. 

Your financial advisor will probably be able to help you find the right attorney for your needs. In fact, a professional financial advisor can also help integrate the power of attorney with the rest of your estate plan and personal financial plan. 

Notary public 

Many state laws will require your power of attorney document signing be witnessed by a notary public. Some states may even require witness signatures to be also notarized. 

Limits on power of attorney 

There are some essential decisions which you legally cannot delegate via a power of attorney. One of these is the authority to create, alter or revoke a will. Also, you cannot delegate authority to form a marriage contract in most states. Voting is also something you cannot delegate through power of attorney; however, your chosen power of attorney may be allowed to request a ballot for you. 

Make it in writing 

Although some jurisdictions will allow a verbal power of attorney, it is not a reliable way to ensure legal enforceability. Having a written power of attorney document can eliminate confusion and conflicts. 

Record the document 

It is usually a good idea to record the power of attorney document with the county government. Although it is not always required, having a record of the power of attorney document can ensure your affairs are taken care of in the way you wish in the case of being incapacitated unexpectedly. 

Filing with the court 

Some state laws require you file the power of attorney with your local court or relevant governmental office before the document is considered legally enforceable.


This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Any opinions are those of the author and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. Raymond James and its advisors do not offer tax or legal advice. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.