If you want someone to be able to deposit your checks at your bank, file your taxes, or even sell or mortgage your home, you can create a handy document called a power of attorney. A POA is a simple document that grants specific powers to someone you trust—called an "agent" or "attorney-in-fact"—to handle certain matters for you.
You can make several different types of POAs in Alaska. In particular, many estate plans include two POAs:
In most estate plans, these POAs are what are known as "durable" POAs, which means that they retain their effectiveness even after you're incapacitated. It's a good idea for most people to create these two documents, as they help plan for the unexpected.
To learn about other types of POAs, including non-durable (limited) and springing POAs, see What Is a Power of Attorney. Below, learn how to create a durable financial POA that is valid in Alaska.
For your POA to be valid in Alaska, it must meet certain requirements.
The person making a power of attorney must be of sound mind. The exact contours of this mental capacity requirement are open to interpretation by Alaska courts. If you're helping someone make a POA and have questions about the person's mental capacity, you should consult an attorney.
To make a POA in Alaska, you must sign the document in the presence of a notary public.
Alaska offers a statutory form (a form drafted by the state legislature) with blanks that you can fill out to create your POA. For a more user-friendly experience, you can try a software program like WillMaker, which guides you through a series of questions to arrive at a POA that meets your specific aims and is valid in your state. You can also hire an Alaska lawyer to create a POA for you. Many lawyers will include durable POAs as part of a more comprehensive estate plan alongside a will or living trust.
Whatever method you choose, the process of making the POA will include selecting (or checking off), from a list, each specific power you want your agent to have. These powers might include, for example, the power to act in the following categories:
In Alaska, if you want the power of attorney to be durable (so that it remains effective after your incapacitation), the document must explicitly state so. Alaska's power of attorney statute suggests wording such as "This power of attorney shall not be affected by the subsequent incapacity of the principal." (Alaska Stat. § 13.26.675.)
As mentioned above, you can't simply sign the document and call it a day. In Alaska, you must also have the POA notarized.
Once you have completed the POA, store the original in a safe place that your loved ones can easily access, and let them know where to find it. (It won't do much good locked away in a safe that no one can get into.) If you become incapacitated, your attorney-in-fact might need the original POA to act on your behalf.
You should also give a copy of the power of attorney to your agent or attorney-in-fact so that your agent is familiar with the contents of the document and can use it when needed.
If you granted the power to deal with real estate to your agent, you should also file a copy of your POA in the land records office (called the Recorder's Office in Alaska). This will allow the Recorder's Office to recognize your agent's authority if your agent ever needs to sell, mortgage, or transfer real estate for you.
You can also give copies of your durable financial POA to banks or other institutions that your agent might need to deal with in the future. This step might eliminate some hassles for your agent if your agent ever needs to use the POA. Banks can sometimes be finicky about accepting POAs; see Can Banks Refuse a Power of Attorney? for more details.
Legally speaking, you can name any competent adult to serve as your attorney-in-fact. But you'll want to take into account certain practical considerations, such as the person's trustworthiness and geographical location. For more on choosing agents, see What Is a Power of Attorney.
Alaska allows you to appoint co-agents who are authorized to act at the same time, but it's usually advisable to stick to just one agent to minimize potential conflicts. Naming a "successor" agent—an alternate who will become your agent if your first choice is unavailable for any reason—is always a good idea, as it creates a backup plan.
Your POA should state when it takes effect. It's very common for the POA to become effective immediately.
In Alaska, it's also possible to create a condition that must be satisfied before the POA becomes effective—such as a doctor declaring that you are incapacitated—but there are many reasons why this type of "springing" power of attorney is not usually advised.
Any power of attorney automatically ends at your death. A durable POA also ends if:
For more on Alaska estate planning issues, see our section on Alaska Estate Planning.