September 18, 2002
JOINT POWER OF ATTORNEY
By: George Coppolo, Chief Attorney
You asked if someone gives a power of attorney to two people in the same document, do both have to sign a deed on the principal's behalf. Our office is not authorized to give legal opinions and this report should not be considered one.
A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document by which one person, called the principal, confers upon anther person, called his attorney-in-fact or agent, the power to perform specified acts on the principal's behalf. The general rule is if a principal gives a POA to two or more people by a single document the authority is presumptively joint and can be exercised only by the unanimous action of the designated agents. Thus, if a principal used one POA to appoint two agents with authority to convey his real estate, both would have to sign the deed and the other related legal documents in connection with the real estate transfer (3 Am. Jur. 2d Agency, Section 172).
When a principal designates two agents in the same document, the law presumes that he bargained for and desired the agents' combined personal ability, experience, judgment, integrity, and other personal qualities. This presumption may be overcome only by a clearly expressed intention in the POA that the agents have the power to act separately. Thus, if a principal designates two agents in the same POA, but wants to authorize either one to be able to exercise the power, he must clearly and explicitly indicate this in the POA.
Although attorneys typically draft POAs for their clients, the General Statutes have established a so-called “short-form” statutory POA that people and attorneys may use instead (CGS § 1-42 et. seq.). This form adopts the general rule regarding dual agents. It specifies that if the principal designates more than one agent in a POA and he wants each agent to be able to exercise the power conferred, he must insert in the appropriate place on the form the word “severally.” The statute specifies that if someone uses this form and neglects to put the word “severally” in the appropriate place, the agents must act together for the POA to be validly exercised (CGS § 1-43). Thus, if someone used the statutory short-form POA to authorize two people to act as his agents to transfer his real estate and did not use the word “severally,” both would have to sign the deed to validly transfer the principal's real estate.