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What is an Attorney in Fact?

Malcolm Tatum
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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There are a number of cases in which the designation of an attorney in fact can be helpful. This is an individual who has been granted authority by way of a power of attorney to act on behalf of another person. In some cases, this authority is granted for a specified period of time, while in other instance, the individual may function as the attorney in fact until the privilege is revoked. There are a number of tasks that this job may entail, as well as a few scenarios in which designating one may be in the bests interests of the individual.

Attorneys in fact are often engaged for the purpose of conducting financial business when the owner will not be available for a period of time. This may involve the authority to manage property, make investments, or execute documents on behalf of a person or an organization. Typically, the agreement between the individual and the person will set specific parameters on what the scope of authority that is being granted.

For example, the attorney in fact may be granted access to bank accounts for the purpose of paying monthly bills or managing an investment portfolio without having to consult anyone on how the cited affairs will be conducted. It is not unusual for the person to function with both a start date and an ending date to the authority. In some cases, there will not be an ending date specified, but it is always understood that the originator of the agreement has the ability to revoke the authority at any time.

Most jurisdictions require very little in the way of qualifications for the attorney in fact. Generally, the designate must be of legal age to perform the responsibilities outlined in the agreement. It is not necessary to be a practicing attorney in order to fill this role, although it is not unusual for attorneys to take on this responsibility for valued clients when the need arises.

An individual may choose to designate an attorney in fact due to a temporary illness, or in the case that an individual plans to be out of the country for an extended period of time. The person can continue to make sure that financial commitments are met, and that financial resources are managed properly. In many instances, an attorney in fact will render some form of accounting, such as a periodic status report. However, unless this is specifically addressed in the agreement, he or she is under no legal obligation to do so.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including MyLawQuestions, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon947447 — On Apr 25, 2014

Does authority of the attorney in fact cease when the principal dies?

By anon324306 — On Mar 09, 2013

Please, if you're not a lawyer, don't advise others on legal questions. Practicing law without a license is illegal in every U.S. jurisdiction.

From reading the comments, many people are confusing the concepts of "attorney-in-fact" and "attorney-at-law." An attorney-in-fact is just a fancy word for "agent." Anyone can appoint anyone as an agent to handle financial/health/business matters and make decisions on their behalf. Many states have formal requirements by statute regarding the power of attorney (the document which confers agency) and you should know what these are before you presume to take on the role of agent for anyone.

An attorney-at-law is a lawyer who is licensed to practice law -- whether advising clients or representing them in court or before an administrative body -- in that jurisdiction. In most cases, this means the person has to have a law degree (most of the time a Juris Doctor) from an accredited institution and pass the bar exam, as well as have the "moral character" required to practice law. Only an attorney-at-law can represent you in court (and in most cases, before an administrative agency).

By anon323649 — On Mar 06, 2013

Attorney-in-fact should be hyphenated, like mother-in-law.

By anon201204 — On Jul 29, 2011

@anon68513: I believe a person can theoretically authorize anyone to act as his or her attorney in a legal proceeding (including him or herself), but the judge and the other professional attorneys may strongly discourage the idea. There are a lot of procedures and tricks of the trade that an untrained "attorney in fact" would not know, so there's every chance that person could really cause some damage. This is why the Miranda rights allow for a court-appointed attorney for indigent defendants.

However, there may be some situations in which anyone familiar with the facts of the case could present a better case or argument in court than the person named in the matter. A person who has extreme difficulty with public speaking, for instance, may want to appoint a friend or relative as an attorney in fact to make sure his or her nervousness doesn't affect the presentation of facts.

I am not a legal professional, but I think someone acting as an attorney in fact for another person would have to be recognized as such by the judge. The judge might not accept testimony from a third party if he or she feels the original person is capable of presenting his or her story without assistance. Having a signed power of attorney form wouldn't be a bad idea if the judge questions the validity of an attorney in fact arrangement.

By anon107278 — On Aug 29, 2010

Can an attorney in fact sell land?

By anon106306 — On Aug 25, 2010

An attorney can help you with you legal problems and stand for you in court and consent your claim and you need to sign and the signature of the person you stand for.

By anon68513 — On Mar 02, 2010

i have a stupid question since i am not a attorney/lawyer.

can i represent a person i.e. friend or relative for a traffic citation/violation at a district magistrates court or before a local court if the person wanting me to do so cannot afford an attorney and does not want a court appointed attorney?

does he have legal grounds to sign a power of attorney to allow me to represent him before a magistrate or judge? it would seem he does but is this true or not?

By anon62953 — On Jan 29, 2010

If there is a notarized last will and testament in existence, does the authority of the Attorney-in-Fact cease when the principal dies?

By anon62733 — On Jan 28, 2010

When I sign for my parent as his Attorney-in-Fact, do I sign his name followed by a slash and then sign my name? What is the procedure for operating as an attorney-in-fact? If there is a will, does the authority of the Attorney-in-Fact cease when the principal dies?

By anon53754 — On Nov 24, 2009

I will have power of attorney for my siblings in the sale of real estate. At the closing how do I sign their names? Do I sign their name followed by a slash and then sign my name? What is the procedure for operating as an attorney-in-fact?

By anon39153 — On Jul 30, 2009

Does the authority of the attorney in fact cease when the principal dies?

By anon36344 — On Jul 11, 2009

My attorney in fact ceased the day/hour/my mother passed. Question: If you have been selected by a parent to be their power attorney with witnesses and notary present, all paperwork in order, can a judge rule that your power attorney be voided because siblings are unhappy concerning the person who was chosen?

By anon21753 — On Nov 20, 2008

Does the authority of the attorney in fact cease when the principal dies?

By anon20395 — On Oct 30, 2008

is there any difference at all between "an attorney" and "an attorney in fact" as wording in the power of attorney?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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