Is an "X" signature legal on a Power of Attorney?

3 answers | Last updated: Oct 28, 2016
Lauriep asked...

Can a person who has terminal cancer and is undergoing morphine treatment legally sign a Poewr of Attorney agreement by using an "x" as a signature?

Expert Answers

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.

An "X" can act as a valid signature on legal documents. The real issue here is whether the person, despite the disease and the treatment, has the legal mental competency required to finalize the power of attorney.

Competency can be sort of a fuzzy issue"”one of those many "gray areas" in the law. When asked to define it, one court recently wrote: "The test of competency to contract is whether the powers of a person's mind have been so affected as to destroy the ability to understand the nature of the act in which he is engaged, its scope and effect or its nature and consequences."

When powers of attorney are challenged in court, the judges will usually turn to a medical opinion for help in each particular case. If you believe the person you write about has the necessary capacity"”and that would be required when he or she signed the power of attorney"”then it might be a good idea to get a doctor to sign a simple statement summarizing that belief.

Community Answers

Reverse expert answered...

In my area of expertise, as a Reverse Mortgage Expert, many times a POA, Power of Attorney, will want to fill out an application for a reverse mortgage. The banks usually will want a letter from the Doctor stating, the state of mind of the borrower. The letter needs to indicate the person is incompetent if that is the case, and when the person first became incompetent. If the date of incompetence were to fall close to the date on which the POA was signed the bank could refuse to grant the reverse mortgage. In addition there are various types of power of attorney. For us to complete a reverse mortgage transaction a durable power of attorney is required, specifically giving the power to perform real estate transactions. What the signature looks like on the POA or any other document we obtain is not as important as verifying the competence of our clients.

A power of attorney can be a great document, however I have seen cases where this form can really be abused. Questioning competence is a good thing and I think it is important as professionals we do the right thing to make sure our seniors are not being taken advantage of.

Annette Fisher Senior Advocate & Manager Family First Reverse a service of Family First Reverse

Tamorris answered...

I have a client that is retiring from the federal govt, he is unable to sign his retirement paper can only sign with an x. What kind of letter can I provide to OPM to back up his signature and do I need witnessess?