How do I sign documents if I have power of attorney?

Vicki in wonderland asked...

I have power of attorney for both health and finances for both of my parents who have dementia and Alzheimer's. I have never been told the legal and correct way of signing forms for them. Do I sign their name to forms? Or do I sign my name with POA after it or something?

Thanks for clearing this up for me.

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

Your question points up one of those interesting legal conundrums: You go through the hoops to take care of business, then no one quite explains the fine points about how to put your power into place.

There are some legal regulations and some institutional rules about the "proper" form of signature for an agent empowered by a durable power of attorney. But the overriding legal control is that you must make clear that you are one person who is empowered to sign on behalf of another"”as opposed to attempting to forge the signature as wholly your own. The American Bar Association sanctions two ways that an agent can sign. If you are Jane Doe empowered as the agent for Dorothy Doe, for example, you could sign either as: "Dorothy Doe, by Jane Doe under Power of Attorney" or "Jane Doe, attorney-in-fact for Dorothy Doe." Either should pass legal muster for some situations.

In reality, however, you may be up against individuals who either don't know the law or who simply seem to like too make things more difficult than need be, so they may make your life more difficult by challenging your right to sign. To be prepared for this possibility, be sure to have a copy of the documents appointing you power of attorney"”especially when dealing with a particular person of institution for the first time.