Many reasons exist why a person might need to appoint a power of attorney, and there are several types of power of attorney options available. A financial power of attorney may give adult children the power of signing checks and handling other financial transactions for elderly parents. Others may use the legal document for business, real estate, estate planning or healthcare purposes. Knowing how to sign a check on behalf of the principal as POA is a critical skill and requires special considerations.
Writing a Check as POA
You need to confirm that your power of attorney document gives you the ability to write checks on behalf of your elderly parent or another entity, called the principal. You must make sure to read all clauses of the agreement. It may not be a general power of attorney but rather limited power of attorney giving the agent power only for specific situations, bank accounts or transactions. That way, you know that writing and signing the check are entirely within your specific powers.
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If check-writing and similar financial affairs are not included, you'll need to contact the attorney who drew up the contract, present the POA document and get legal advice on how to proceed. For example, the Maricopa County Superior Court says the current POA may need to be revoked in the presence of a notary public and a new one written to grant the legal authority needed. In the meantime, the person who gave you power of attorney may need to sign checks with their own name.
Every financial institution, credit union or bank will have its own rules about POA check writing, so you'll need to contact the bank to learn about them. Typically, you'll need to sign the principal's name, indicate that it is a POA check by writing "Power of Attorney" in the notes section and include your name underneath the principal person's name.
Establishing a POA Checking Account
Most banks have helpful FAQ pages, such as the one provided by the experts at Bank of America, that answer many common questions about power of attorney, but you should call them or visit a branch in person if you're unsure. You may also want to consider opening a POA checking account, which is similar to a joint account and may even be the same at some financial institutions.
Especially in situations where a power of attorney will act long-term, it is easier for all parties to set up a POA checking account. These accounts can allow the principal to maintain access to some of their finances without the worry of remembering to pay bills on time. For example, the POA may be responsible for depositing the principal's Social Security checks and paying the mortgage. However, the principal would still be able to write their own checks for their grandchildren on their birthdays.
To set up this kind of account, contact the bank to ask about its procedures. Bank of America says you can expect to need to present a copy of the power of attorney along with identification for both parties involved. The bank will use the POA copy to verify the agent's authority to handle financial transactions. It will also assess whether it's a durable power of attorney, which the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau explains will still apply even after the principal's incapacitation.
Endorsing Checks as a POA
Check endorsement might be another critical responsibility you take on as power of attorney, especially if your elderly parent receives Social Security checks in the mail.
The first thing you will need to do is review your agreement and make sure you have the right to endorse checks per the written contract. Once you've established your rights for these financial transactions, you can sign the name of your principal, but it's more accurate to sign their name and your own and then indicate that you're acting as power of attorney.
The American Bar Association offers guidance on signing the check. As an example, if John Doe awarded power of attorney to Jane Doe, she could sign "John Doe" and then sign "Jane Doe" underneath it, adding the phrase "under POA." Alternatively, she could sign "Jane Doe, attorney-in-fact for John Doe." While either can work, the contract may specifically outline the type of signature you should use; always check the written agreement.
- Bank of America: Power of Attorney
- Maricopa County Superior Court: Revocation of Power of Attorney
- American Bar Association: Power of Attorney
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: What Is a Power of Attorney (POA)?
- McAndrews Law Offices: Powers of Attorney or Joint Accounts: What is the Best Way to Assist a Loved One with Finances?