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 Maine. In particular, many estate plans include two POAs that are effective even if you become incapacitated:
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 Maine.
For your POA to be valid in Maine, 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 Maine courts. If you're helping someone make a POA and you're unsure whether they have the required mental capacity, consult an estate planning attorney.
While Maine does not technically require you to get your POA notarized, notarization is very strongly recommended. Under Maine law, when you sign your POA in the presence of a notary public, your signature is presumed to be genuine—meaning your POA is more ironclad. In addition, many financial institutions will require a POA to be notarized (even if state law doesn't require it) before they accept it.
Your POA must include specific language that is conveniently set out in Maine's POA statute. (For the exact language, look up Maine Revised Statutes, Title 18-C, § 5-905.) While the rest of your power of attorney need not follow an exact form, the document must include a notice to the principal (the person creating the POA) as well as a notice to the agent. The notice to the principal warns you that you are giving away broad powers. The notice to agents informs agents that they are assuming certain legal duties by agreeing to act as your agents.
Some private companies offer forms or templates with blanks that you can fill out to create your POA. However, because these forms are often full of legalese, it's not always apparent how to fill them out. 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 a Maine 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 either granting your agent comprehensive powers or selecting, from a list, the specific powers you want your agent to have. For example, you might choose to grant your agent the power to:
In Maine, your power of attorney is automatically durable (meaning that it remains effective after your incapacitation) unless the document explicitly states otherwise. (Me. Rev. Stat. Tit. 18-C § 5-904.)
As mentioned above, in Maine, you should 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 agent might need the original POA to act on your behalf.
You should also give a copy of the power of attorney to your agent so that your agent is familiar with the contents of the document.
If you gave your agent the power to conduct real estate transactions, you should also file a copy of your POA in the land records office (in Maine, this office is called the register of deeds) in the county where you own real estate. This will allow the register of deeds 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 agent. 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.
Maine 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. However, 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 is effective immediately unless it explicitly states that it takes effect at a future date.
It's 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:
Additionally, in Maine, if your spouse is named as your agent in your POA, that designation automatically ends once either of you files for divorce. To be clear, your ex-spouse's authority to act as your agent ends, but your POA is still intact. So if you named a successor agent, that person would become your agent.
For more on Maine planning issues, see our section on Maine Estate Planning.