NOTICES on Powers of Attorney

Question:

Why does my durable power of attorney have those long, bolded, capitalized sections of text at the begining and (or) end of my document?

Answer:

Those sections might be an eyesore, but they must (or should) be part of your durable power of attorney. Here's why:

Durable powers of attorney are very powerful documents that give one person the right to manage another person’s finances. They can be very useful, but bad people can also use them to steal, commit fraud, or engage in other types abuse against the principal. So most durable powers of attorney contain some safeguards to ensure that:

1) the principal understands what it means to sign a power of attorney, and how dire it could be if the agent (attorney-in-fact) turns out to be a bad person, and

2) the agent understands that the agent’s duties require that he or she act in the best interest of the principal.

In many states, the law requires durable powers of attorney to have “warnings” or “notices” at the beginning or end (or both) of the document. Very often these sections of text are required to be a certain size, capitalized, or bolded (or all three). For example, California's law is here: Cal. Prob. Code s. 4128, and here is how it shows up in WillMaker's California durable power of attorney:

Notice to Principal

As a safeguard, WillMaker provides a notice to the principal for every state, even if state law doesn't require it.

Nobody knows if these warnings are effective. But we do know that in many states they are required, and that in all states they add an additional layer of protection against abuse. We also know that institutions looking to accept your power of attorney will see those sections of text as familiar signs of authenticity.

In sum, those sections of unsightly text are intentionally included in your document--do not attempt to remove them. When making a durable power of attorney, both you and your agent should read and understand the warnings before signing the document.