Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Making Changes to Powers of Attorney

     We previously discussed how a Power of Attorney allows another person to make legal decisions on your behalf, whether immediately or only upon your incapacity. However, what happens if, after executing a Power of Attorney, you change your mind about whom you want to act on your behalf? If this happens, you need to take certain steps to make certain you revoke that person's power.
     The first step is to execute a new Power of Attorney, changing the individual designated to act, known as the Attorney-in-Fact. The new Power of Attorney should specifically state that it supersedes all previous Powers of Attorney.
     Next you should notify the person previously named in writing and request the return of any copies of the original Power of Attorney. This notice informs the person that they no longer have the duty or the power to act on your behalf. When you receive copies of the superseded Power of Attorney make sure to securely destroy those copies along with any other copies in your possession.
     It is also important to inform third parties that this person no longer has the authority to act on your behalf. This notice should be done as soon as possible orally, and then follow-up in writing. The third party, such as a bank, is then fully aware of the change and acts at its peril if it allows the original Attorney-in-Fact to act. By providing a copy of the new Power of Attorney, you specifically show that you revoked the prior document and executed a new document in its place. This allows the third party to know not only that it should no longer honor the previous document but also whom you have chosen to replace the previous Attorney-in-Fact.
     Used properly, a Power of Attorney can make difficult situations much easier by allowing someone to make important decisions while you are incapacitated or merely unavailable. However, because a Power of Attorney provides another person with the authority to act on your behalf it is important to review that document periodically to ensure that the people named are still the best people to make those decisions. Finally, it is important to consult with an attorney before signing any form of Power of Attorney. Do-it-yourself books and websites offer broad, general documents that are often insufficient to meet a person’s needs. By speaking with an experienced attorney, you are assured of receiving documents and the support needed to address your specific situation.

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