What Is a Power of Attorney?

Powers of attorney are very important estate planning tools. These documents allow the person executing the power of attorney, known as the principal, to designate someone he or she trusts, known as the agent or attorney, to handle certain situations on the principal's behalf, in certain matters such as:

  • Financial accounts
  • Real estate
  • Digital assets
  • Health care

A power of attorney may be drafted to take effect immediately once signed, or alternatively, upon the occurrence of certain circumstances, such as disability, in which case it is referred to as a "springing power of attorney." Powers of attorney that remain effective after disability are considered "durable," but that durability terminates upon the death of the principal.

Maryland's Power of Attorney Requirements

Maryland law requires that financial powers of attorney signed after October 1, 2010, be notarized and include the signature of two adult witnesses (one of whom may be the notary). Health care powers of attorney need not be notarized, and in Maryland, a copy of a health care power of attorney is as effective as the "original" for all purposes. As with a will or trust, the principal signing a power of attorney must be legally competent at the time he or she executes the document.

In order to best meet your needs, it is important to choose the right type of power of attorney and ensure it will be implemented properly. The Eleff Law Group, is an estate planning firm based in Bethesda, Silver Spring and Frederick, Maryland, with decades of experience. Attorney Susan Eleff and her legal team will listen to your concerns and provide legal solutions that fit your needs.

Types of Power of Attorney

Forms of power of attorney in Maryland include:

Statutory personal financial power of attorney: This document authorizes a person whom you select as your agent, broad control over your financial and business affairs. It may also contain the principal's preferences of a guardian of his or her person, or his estate, if appointment of a guardian is warranted. Third parties, such as banks, are required to accept statutory personal financial powers of attorney or face civil liability for the principal's attorneys' fees.

Statutory limited power of attorney: This document is similar to the statutory personal financial power of attorney, but allows the principal to select which specific powers he or she is delegating to the agent.

Supplemental personal financial power of attorney: This is a document to cover certain financial or other matters not included in a Maryland statutory financial power of attorney. Susan Eleff recommends a supplemental power of attorney to cover acts such as running a business, continuing a program of gifting, and taking control of digital assets or other matters absent from the statutory form.

Advance medical directive: This is a health care power of attorney that names an agent to make health care decisions when the principal is unable to do so, and may also include the principal's preferences for his or her care, HIPAA authorizations for access to medical care documentation, donation of body or body parts upon death of the principal and funeral arrangements.

Rescinding or Revoking a Power of Attorney

All powers of attorney are deemed rescinded by the principal's death. When competent, a principal may also voluntarily revoke a financial power of attorney by a subsequently executed document, duly witnessed and notarized. A later executed advance medical directive replaces and revokes one with a prior date.

Schedule Your Free Legal Consultation

If you are considering appointing someone to handle your financial affairs or make health care decisions on your behalf contact The Eleff Law Group. Susan Eleff and her team of lawyers will provide you with competent legal counsel to help you accomplish your goals.

To discuss powers of attorney, or other estate planning needs or concerns, please call 800-765-2662 or fill out this form to schedule a free initial telephone or in-person consultation of up to 15 minutes; certain limitations may apply.