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How To Make a Power of Attorney in the District of Columbia FAQ

Written by: Catherine Hodder, Esq. , Senior Legal Writer
Reviewed by: Madison Hess, J.D. , Legal Writer
Last updated May 23, 2024

Still not sure what estate planning tools you need?

A power of attorney is a helpful document when you need someone to help you with your legal or financial affairs. Get answers to frequently asked questions about power of attorney documents and learn how to make a valid power of attorney in the District of Columbia.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that allows you (the principal) to designate another person (the agent or attorney in fact) to make decisions and take actions on your behalf in financial, legal, and personal matters.

You can find power of attorney laws in the District of Columbia Uniform Power of Attorney Act §21-201.01 through §21-2601.23.

There are various types of powers of attorney used for different purposes. A financial power of attorney allows your agent to handle legal and financial matters. A medical power of attorney allows your agent to manage your healthcare and make medical decisions when you cannot make them yourself.

A power of attorney document also avoids the need for a conservatorship. If you can’t manage your affairs, your family members must petition a court to appoint someone as your conservator to handle your legal and financial decisions. But if you already have an agent, then they do not have to go to court.

Who Can Be My Agent?

Any competent adult can serve as an agent in the District of Columbia. You can ask a family member, friend, or professional advisor to be your agent. When choosing your agent, you want someone trustworthy, responsible, and organized. An agent has significant control over your money and assets, but they also have a fiduciary duty to avoid conflicts and act in the principal’s best interest.

While you want to name more than one person as your agent, avoid using co-agents because it can be problematic. If your agents must work together, what happens if they disagree? If your agents can act on their own, what happens when they contradict each other? It is better to name one person as your primary agent and another as the backup or successor agent if your primary agent is unable to serve.

What Can My Agent Do in the District of Columbia?

Your agent can handle a broad range of activities that you permit, such as bill paying, accessing bank accounts, and managing real estate. The authorities you can grant under District of Columbia §21-2602.01 through §21-2602.17 include the following:

  • 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
  • Gifts

However, there are other specific powers that you may or may not want to give your agent because it has the potential to reduce your estate. This may be something you want if, for example, you want your agent to minimize estate taxes or qualify you for government benefits like Social Security and Medicaid. In the District of Columbia, under §21-2602.01, you must expressly give your agent the power to do 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
  • Delegate 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
  • Disclaim property, including a power of appointment

Consider what powers you need to give your agent to accomplish your goals, and talk to your agent about how you want them to handle your money and property.

What Is a Durable Power of Attorney in the District of Columbia?

durable power of attorney remains effective even if you become incapacitated, allowing your agent to continue making decisions for you. Under §21-2601.04, the power of attorney is durable unless you expressly provide that it terminates by the incapacity of the principal.

When Is the Power of Attorney Effective?

A power of attorney is effective when signed under §21-2601.09 unless you provide that it becomes effective at a future date or upon the occurrence of a future event or contingency. For example, you can make your POA effective upon your incapacity, called a “springing” power of attorney.

When Does the Power of Attorney End?

Your power of attorney ends when you die. There are other events when your power of attorney terminates, such as:

You become incapacitated or unavailable, if the power of attorney is non-durable

  • The power of attorney provides a termination date or event;
  • The purpose of the power of attorney is accomplished
  • The agent dies, becomes incapacitated or unavailable, or resigns, and the power of attorney does not provide for another agent to act under the power of attorney.

Your agent’s authority terminates when:

  • You revoke their authority
  • The agent dies, becomes incapacitated or unavailable, or resigns;
  • Your agent is your spouse, and you file a petition for divorce or annulment or are legally separated unless you provide otherwise in your power of attorney
  • The power of attorney terminates

When you name a backup agent to your power of attorney, you ensure that it won’t lapse due to the lack of an agent.

Does the District of Columbia Have a Statutory Power of Attorney?

Yes, the District of Columbia has a statutory power of attorney form found in §21-2603.01. However, the District of Columbia does not require you to use the statutory form. You can either create a power of attorney yourself tailored to your situation or hire an estate planning attorney.

Can I Make My Power of Attorney in the District of Columbia?

Yes. A competent adult may make a power of attorney in the District of Columbia. When creating your power of attorney, you should know who you want to name as your agent and what authority to give them. If you are looking for DIY legal services, there are online power of attorney forms. If you have questions about making a power of attorney, however, you may want to talk with an attorney for legal advice.

How Do I Make My Power of Attorney Valid in the District of Columbia?

Under the requirements of §21-2601.05, you must sign your power of attorney document or direct someone to sign it for you in your conscious presence. A notary public must also attest your signature.

Do I Have to Notarize My Power of Attorney in the District of Columbia?

Yes, a notary public must notarize your signature in your power of attorney.

What Should I Do After Signing My Power of Attorney?

After signing your power of attorney, you should keep the original in a secure location. Give copies to your agent and any third parties that you want to notify.

A bank or financial institution may ask your agent to complete an agent certification form in which your agent certifies that the power of attorney is effective and that they are authorized to act as your agent.

Does a Power of Attorney Agent Get Paid in the District of Columbia?

In the District of Columbia, your agent may receive reimbursement of reasonable expenses incurred while serving under your power of attorney. Your agent is only entitled to reasonable compensation if you provide for it in your power of attorney. If your agent is a bank or trust company, they can receive both reasonable compensation and reimbursement.

Is My District of Columbia Power of Attorney Valid in Another State?

Yes. Generally, a power of attorney created in the District of Columbia and executed according to its laws will be recognized in another state.

Can I Revoke My District of Columbia Power of Attorney?

Yes. If you are mentally competent, you can revoke your power of attorney at any time. Your revocation should be in writing and given to your agent and all third parties who relied on your original POA. You should also destroy your original power of attorney.

What Estate Planning Documents Should I Have in the District of Columbia?

For a complete estate plan, you may want to consider two other estate planning documents in addition to a financial power of attorney.

A health care directive called a durable power of attorney for health care in the District of Columbia combines a healthcare power of attorney and a living will. In a healthcare directive, you name an agent to access your medical records, communicate with your healthcare providers, and make healthcare decisions when you can’t. You can also specify your wishes for end-of-life treatment and care, such as what life-prolonging measures you want to be given or withheld if you have an end-stage or terminal illness.

last will and testament is your instructions for who manages your estate, inherits your property, and cares for your minor children. If you don’t have a will, you die “intestate.” A probate court then must follow intestacy laws to distribute your property and decide who is in charge of your estate and cares for your children. A will gives you peace of mind that your wishes will be honored and speeds up the probate process.

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


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