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Are do-it-yourself power of attorney forms legal?

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Quick Answer

Do-it-yourself power of attorney forms are legal as long as they satisfy state law, according to Legal Zoom. Each state has different laws regarding the creation of a durable power of attorney. Some states require a notary to attest to the person initiating the power of attorney's signature, called the principal, while others require witnesses to watch the principal sign. Fill-in-the-blank forms that the principal can use are readily available.

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Are do-it-yourself power of attorney forms legal?
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Full Answer

A power of attorney legally gives a trusted person whom the principal chooses the power to act in his place, explains Nolo. This person is called the agent. A power of attorney needs to be durable for the agent to act in the principal's place if he becomes mentally incapacitated or unable to speak for himself. There are two types of durable power of attorney: medical and financial. Nolo explains that a medical power of attorney allows the agent to enforce the principal's wishes in all medical decisions. A financial power of attorney allows the agent to take care of the principal's financial affairs, including paying bills or managing investments.

Legal Zoom explains that the agent must act in the principal's best interests, keep records of all transactions and cannot enrich himself from the principal's assets. A durable power of attorney can be revoked by the principal at any time, assuming he is mentally competent and able to make his wishes known.

Durable financial power of attorney ends when the principal dies, explains Nolo. Therefore, the principal must have a will in addition to the power of attorney. The agent must either be the same person as the executor of the principal's will, or the agent and the executor must be able to work closely with each other. Nolo states that a medical power of attorney is usually executed with another medical directive called the "living will," and some states combine these two forms into one called an "advanced health care directive." The advanced health care directive covers all of the medical decisions that need to be made, including end-of-life care.

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