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How To Make a Power of Attorney in Rhode Island FAQ

Written by: Catherine Hodder, Esq. , Senior Legal Writer
Reviewed by: Madison Hess, J.D. , Legal Writer
Last updated May 17, 2024

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A power of attorney helps you manage your affairs if you have a sudden disability or incapacity. You choose someone you trust to act on your behalf and make legal and financial decisions for you. Learn about how you benefit from power of attorney documents and the legal requirements to create a valid Rhode Island POA.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document where a “principal” grants someone, known as an “agent” or “attorney-in-fact,” to act on their behalf in legal and financial matters. You can find Rhode Island’s rules for powers of attorney in §18-16-1 through §18-16-12 of the Rhode Island code.

There are different types of power of attorney documents for different purposes. A financial power of attorney allows your agent to handle financial and legal matters. A health care directive allows your agent to make healthcare decisions and follow your instructions for medical treatments and end-of-life care.

Without a power of attorney, if you can’t manage your affairs due to an incapacity, your family members ask a court for a conservatorship. A court then names a conservator to make decisions for you, and that may not be someone you like. With a power of attorney, you already have someone to act in your place, so you avoid the need for a conservatorship.

Who Can Be My Agent?

In Rhode Island, you can name anyone as your agent if they are competent (having a sound mind) and 18 or older. When choosing an agent, whether a family member, friend, or professional advisor, you want someone you trust. But make sure they are responsible and organized.

An agent must avoid conflicts of interest and has a fiduciary duty to act in good faith and in the best interest of the principal. But they do have broad powers over money and assets.

Do not use co-agents because that can complicate matters. If your agents must act jointly, they may disagree and can’t act on your behalf. Or if they act independently, they can contradict each other’s decisions. Instead, name one person as the primary agent and the other person as the backup or successor agent. If the primary agent is not able to serve, your backup agent can step in for them.

What Can My Agent Do in Rhode Island?

You decide what powers you want to give your agent. For example, you may want your agent to manage bank accounts and investments, pay bills, or handle real estate transactions. There are different areas where you can grant authority for your agent to be able to handle transactions involving:

  • Real property (real estate)
  • Tangible personal property (personal possessions)
  • Stocks and bonds
  • Commodities and options
  • Banks and other financial institutions
  • Operation of entity or business
  • Insurance and annuities
  • Estates, trusts, and other beneficial interests
  • Claims and litigation
  • Personal and family maintenance
  • Benefits from governmental programs or civil or military service
  • Retirement plans
  • Taxes

However, certain powers allow your agent to reduce your estate, such as the following:

  • Create, amend, revoke, or terminate a living trust
  • Make a gift
  • Create or change rights of survivorship
  • Create or change a beneficiary designation
  • Authorize another person to exercise the authority granted under the power of attorney
  • Waive the principal’s right to be a beneficiary of a joint and survivor annuity, including a survivor benefit under a retirement plan
  • Exercise fiduciary powers that the principal has authority to delegate
  • Access the content of electronic communications
  • Renounce or disclaim an interest in property, including a power of appointment

Why would you want your agent to reduce your estate? Perhaps so they can lower your estate taxes or qualify you for government programs such as Social Security or Medicaid. Think carefully about what powers you want to give your agent and talk with them about your wishes and expectations.

What Is a Durable Power of Attorney in Rhode Island?

durable power of attorney means it continues to be in effect even if the principal becomes incapacitated. If you want a durable power of attorney, you should include language such as “this power of attorney shall not be affected by the disability of the principal” in your document.

When Is the Power of Attorney Effective?

Generally, a power of attorney is effective when signed unless you want to specify a future effective date or upon a contingency, such as the principal’s incapacity, called a “springing” power of attorney.

When Does the Power of Attorney End?

Your power of attorney ends when you die or if you revoke it during your life. It will also end if you are incapacitated and your POA is non-durable. Your POA can also end on a termination date you specify in the document or if the purpose of the power of attorney is accomplished. And if your agent dies, becomes incapacitated, or resigns and you do not have a backup agent, the power of attorney terminates.

Does Rhode Island Have a Statutory Power of Attorney?

Yes. Rhode Island has a statutory short-form power of attorney in §18-16-2. However, it is not mandatory to use that power of attorney form. You can either create your own power of attorney or hire an estate planning attorney.

Can I Make My Own Power of Attorney in Rhode Island?

Yes. Before you make a financial power of attorney, you should know who you want to name as your agent and what powers you want to give them. Many people use state-specific online estate planning forms and customize them for their situation. But if you have other questions about power of attorney documents, talk to a legal professional for legal advice.

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How Do I Make My Power of Attorney Valid in Rhode Island?

To make a valid power of attorney, you must be mentally competent and 18 or older. Your power of attorney must be in writing, signed by you, and attested by a notary public.

Do I Have to Notarize My Power of Attorney in Rhode Island?

Yes. You must sign your power of attorney before a notary public. Notarization is evidence that your signature is genuine.

 

What Should I Do After Signing My Power of Attorney?

After signing your power of attorney, notify your agent about their appointment and discuss your wishes and instructions. Safely store the original document and provide copies to your agent, financial institutions, and anyone else who may need to recognize your agent’s authority. A third party may ask for an agent certification form in which your agent certifies that your power of attorney is effective and they have the authority to act in your place.

Does a Power of Attorney Agent Get Paid in Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, your agent is entitled to reimbursement of reasonable expenses incurred while acting under your power of attorney. They may also be entitled to receive reasonable compensation unless you state otherwise in your power of attorney.

Is My Rhode Island Power of Attorney Valid in Another State?

Yes. Generally, other states will recognize a Rhode Island power of attorney created and signed according to Rhode Island law.

Can I Revoke My Rhode Island Power of Attorney?

Yes. If you are mentally competent, you can revoke your power of attorney document at any time. Make a written statement of revocation and give copies to your agent and all third parties who received your original power of attorney.

What Estate Planning Documents Should I Have in Rhode Island?

In addition to a financial power of attorney, there are two other estate planning documents to consider: a health care directive and a last will and testament.

health care directive incorporates a healthcare power of attorney with a living will or advance directive. In your healthcare directive, you name an agent to obtain your medical information, talk to healthcare providers, and make medical decisions on your behalf. You can also include instructions on what life-sustaining measures you want or don’t want if you have an end-stage illness or terminal condition.

last will and testament is a legal document of your wishes for how you want your estate handled. You name someone to manage your estate, called a personal representative, name beneficiaries of your property and decide who you want to care for your minor children. Without a will, you die “intestate,” and a court follows intestacy laws to distribute your property and decide who cares for your children. A will speeds up the probate process, saving your loved ones time and money.

Fortunately, by using online templates, it is easy to create a valid power of attorney and other estate planning documents in Rhode Island.

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