With great power comes great responsibility.


Durable power of attorney abuse.

As the saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  No truer statement could be made about the power you grant your agent/attorney-in-fact in a durable power of attorney.

Make no mistake about it, a durable power of attorney is a very powerful document.  It essentially allows a person to stand in your shoes and perform any of the powers listed in the durable power of attorney document, so long as they are allowed under your governing state’s laws.

This means that if your durable power of attorney gives your agent the power to conduct banking transactions on your behalf, then conceivably, your agent could walk into each and every one of your banks and withdraw your entire life’s savings.  And, the catch is that the bank is likely to be completely blameless for letting that happen–because, after all, you gave your agent the power to do that under your durable power of attorney.  Unfortunately, your only recourse in that situation, would be to sue your agent for the return of your money, if and when you can find your agent (and the money).

So, if you haven’t gotten the point already, then let me say it directly – you better trust the agent whom you name in a durable power of attorney with your money, and in some cases your life (if there are health powers grated therein).

But this blog is mostly about the fact that inheritance is poison.  How do durable powers of attorney fuel the inheritance litigation fires?   Well for starters, durable power of attorney abuse is a very highly litigated industry.  Giving such power to a inheritance predator is obviously a recipe for disaster, and a sure fire way to ensure that very little of your inheritance is left for your heirs.  An inheritance predator can use or misuse a durable power of attorney to make withdrawals from your bank account, re-title assets and beneficiary designations, give instructions to security guards and front desk personnel to limit your access  to loved ones, to say the least.  The potential for abuse is as large as the powers granted under the document.

However, a durable power of attorney is a very important document for you to have, as it may save you and your family from having to initiate a guardianship to make decisions for you.  Many estate planning attorneys will tell you that its- a must have document.

So what is one to do?  Well, for starters, talk to your attorney about what the attorney recommends for you to do.  Like in the retail business, you make your money upfront by selecting and buying your goods correctly.  In this case, you can save yourself and your heirs a great deal of hardship upfront by selecting your attorney in fact correctly.  Don’t limit yourself to those friends or family members who live closest to you and are the most convenient to name.  Ask yourself – do I trust this person with my money and my life. This might be the most important decision you ever make, especially when it comes to saving your family from a heartbreaking ordeal.  Remember, choose wisely- because inheritance is poison.