You may want someone you trust to handle certain matters for you. This might be done for your convenience—because you can't be present to sign legal documents—or by necessity—because you have become incapacitated and aren't able to handle finances or make medical treatment decisions. For either reason, you should know about the power of attorney requirements in Georgia.
A power of attorney is a legal document whereby one person, called the “agent," is given authority to act on behalf of another person, called the “principal." To understand POAs, you should be familiar with a few terms and concepts:
- Durable power of attorney. A POA that continues in effect after the principal becomes incapacitated.
- Springing power of attorney. A POA that only becomes effective if the principal becomes incapacitated.
- Healthcare power of attorney. A POA that allows your agent to make decisions about your medical treatment if you are unable to make or communicate decisions. By its very nature, a healthcare POA is both springing and durable.
Georgia financial POA basics
The Georgia law covering financial POAs is found in the Uniform Power of Attorney Act, found in Title 10, Chapter 6B, of the Official Code of Georgia. A POA must meet all four of the following basic requirements for a power of attorney in Georgia:
- It must be signed by the principal. If the principal is unable to sign, another person may sign the principal's name at the direction of the principal and in the presence of the principal.
- It must be signed by one or more witnesses.
- It must be signed by a notary public or other person authorized to administer oaths. The notary may not be a witness.
- The principal, witnesses, anyone signing for the principal, and notary must all be present when they sign.
Obtaining a power of attorney in Georgia has been made somewhat easy since the Georgia legislature has created standardized forms for both financial and healthcare POAs.
Under Georgia law, a person is incapacitated if he or she is unable to manage property or business affairs because of either:
- An "impairment in the ability to receive and evaluate information or make or communicate decisions even with the use of technological assistance" (as determined by a physician or licensed psychologist); or
- Being missing, detained (including being incarcerated), or outside of the United States and unable to return (as determined by a lawyer, judge or "an appropriate government official").
However, you may authorize someone to determine incapacity in your POA.
Georgia financial POA form
The Georgia legislature has created a Statutory Form Power of Attorney, which may be found in the Official Code of Georgia, Title 10, Chapter 6B, Section 10-6B-70. The form states that it becomes effective immediately unless you state otherwise in the section titled "SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS." For example, this could be done by inserting the following language: "This power of attorney shall become effective upon the principal's incapacity."
The form lists various types of financial transactions. Detailed explanations of each power are found in the Uniform Power of Attorney Act. You may give your agent all of these powers by initialing the line before the last item designated "All preceding subjects." Otherwise, you need to initial the line before each power you wish to give your agent. There is a separate section, under the heading "GRANT OF SPECIFIC AUTHORITY," relating to extraordinary powers that are not typically given to an agent.
Georgia healthcare POA form
The Georgia legislature has created a suggested Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care. The principal must sign and date the form in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign the form. It does not need to be notarized. This form may be found in the Official Code of Georgia, Title 31, Chapter 32, Section 31-32-4.
Why use a statutory form
Creating a power of attorney in Georgia using the statutory form will increase the likelihood of the form's being readily accepted, as they will be familiar to the business and medical communities. These forms include valuable instructions and information. A new statutory financial POA form went into effect on July 1, 2017. Although the law states that a Georgia POA created before that date is still valid, and an out-of-state POA is valid, it is a good idea to create a new POA using the current form.
By learning about the Georgia requirements for both financial and healthcare POAs, you'll be ahead of the game. And remember: The best time for putting such documents in place is before you or your loved ones actually need them.