A recent New York Times story provides a cautionary tale about the efficacy of durable power of attorney documents and what you need to do to ensure your power of attorney isn’t powerless when the time comes to use it.
Because of their concern over liability, more banks are refusing to honor existing power of attorney documents, instead insisting that their own forms be used. This can be a nuisance at best or a disaster at worst, especially if the person who has assigned you power of attorney has slipped into dementia.
Many times, an attorney can help those who find themselves in this unfortunate position by contacting the bank and explaining the validity of the power of attorney document. However, the best practice may be to act proactively and inquire whether a bank or brokerage requires its own durable power of attorney document. This should be done for each financial institution where you or your relative has an account.
Before you sign a bank or brokerage firm’s durable power of attorney document, be sure to have an attorney review it. It could contain provisions that contradict the original power of attorney, or disadvantageous indemnity or arbitration clauses. In that case, you may need an attorney to intervene with the financial institution to accept the original power of attorney.
What you want to avoid is having to petition a court to become your relative’s guardian or conservator, which is a long, expensive process. A little forethought and consultation with an elder law attorney can help ensure a power of attorney is valid when you need it.
With the proper guidance, you can protect your finances and spare your loved ones the frustration of having to make costly and difficult decisions. Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.