Notarizations involving a power of attorney — a document naming a person who is authorized to sign on behalf of another— often pose challenges and make the process more complex. Take our quiz to see how familiar you are with powers of attorney.
1. A person authorized by a power of attorney to sign on someone else’s behalf is called a:
A. “Empowered Representative”
B. “Proxy Authority”
C. “Attorney In Fact”
D. “Executor By Consent”
Answer: C. The correct term for a person authorized by a power of attorney to sign on someone else’s behalf is an “attorney in fact”. Sometimes the attorney in fact is called an “agent.” The person the attorney in fact is signing on behalf of is referred to as the “principal.”
2. True or False. Some powers of attorney only give a person authority to exercise certain powers on behalf of another individual.
Answer: True. There are many different types of powers of attorney. Some give the attorney in fact broad authority and others only to make health care decisions, order financial affairs, or buy and sell property.
3. A customer is signing for his absent spouse under a power of attorney and asks you to take the acknowledgment of his signature on a document. When asking for identification, you will need to see proof of identity for:
A. The customer
B. The spouse
C. Both the customer and the spouse
Answer: A. You are taking the acknowledgment of the attorney in fact (customer), not the principal (spouse) the attorney in fact is representing. Consequently, you would need to identify the customer. Situations like this can be confusing because, when signing a document on behalf of a principal, an attorney in fact will typically sign their name and the name of the person they are representing, such as “John Burns, attorney in fact for Mary Anderson, principal” or “Mary Anderson, principal, by John Burns, attorney in fact.”
4. True or False: All states require Notaries to ask for proof a signer has power of attorney if the signer wishes to sign on someone else’s behalf.
Answer: False. Each state’s laws are different on this matter, so you will need to check your state’s Notary statutes. Some states, such as Hawaii, Montana and Utah, require the Notary to see proof that the signer has power of attorney. Most other states do not.
David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.