Can the Power of Attorney Add Signers to Bank Accounts?

by Ciaran John, Demand Media
    A power of attorney can handle financial matters on your behalf.

    A power of attorney can handle financial matters on your behalf.

    A power of attorney is someone who has the authority to handle your financial affairs. You may appoint a POA if you need someone to pay bills from your account while you are overseas or undergoing medical treatment. In theory, a POA could add signers to your bank accounts, but it all depends on the wording in the POA document.

    Power of Attorney

    A POA agreement comes into effect when you produce a written document in which you designate someone to act as your attorney-in-fact. You sign the document as the principal, which means that the POA in question has powers to act on your behalf. You need to get the document notarized and it should include specific details of the POA's power and responsibilities. A limited POA allows someone to act on your behalf in some capacity for a certain period of time. A durable POA remains in effect even if you become mentally incapacitated. Durable POAs expire when you die although you do have the right to revoke the POA at any time.

    Authority

    Typically, a POA has the authority to act on your behalf in matters relating to either your finances, your health or both. Legally, the POA has to act in your best interests, which means using your bank account to pay your bills rather than using the cash for his or her one purposes. When you create the POA document, you can either give the POA broad unspecified financial authority or you can detail the precise tasks you want the POA to handle. Many people include responsibilities such as opening and closing accounts, paying loans and managing investments in a POA document.

    Signers

    While laws vary between states, a POA can't typically add or remove signers from your bank account unless you include this responsibility in the POA document. If you're physically unable to make amendments to your own account, you might want to give the POA this power so he or she can add your relatives or significant other to your account. This may come into play if you're overseas and you want to combine your bank accounts with your spouse's for tax reasons or convenience. If you don't include a clause giving the POA this authority, then financial institutions won't allow your POA to make ownership changes to your accounts.

    Beneficiaries

    Aside from signers, you may also have beneficiaries listed on your account. A POA can't normally add or remove these individuals because beneficiaries only have access to your account when you die. A POA document becomes null and void when you pass away so a POA can't legally take actions that will affect your assets after your death. POAs are also unable to make changes to your will even if they have access to the accounts that are listed among the assets in your will.

    About the Author

    Ciaran John began writing in 1994 with contributions to "The Hourly Press" and "The Sawbridgeworth Observer," and has since written for many online and print publications. He has 12 years experience working for financial services companies as a business banker, lender and investment representative and spent four years working in human resources.

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