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What are the Risks of a Power of Attorney?

Posted on July 5, 2022 at 4:25 PM

What Is a Power of Attorney? What Are the Risks of a Power of Attorney?


 

A power of attorney (POA) can be a useful tool in many situations, but you need to know the

dangers of having a POA or being named as the agent in someone else’s POA. The person who

creates and signs a power of attorney is the grantor or maker of the POA. The individual the

grantor names to act on behalf of the grantor is the agent.

You will want to talk to a Missouri estate planning attorney if you are thinking about signing a

POA or if someone asked you to serve as their agent in their POA. I will be happy to answer

your questions and draft your POA or provide legal guidance if you are the agent in someone

else’s document.


A Quick Overview of a Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document that gives authority for one person (the agent) to act

as directed for another person (the grantor). Only the grantor can create the POA. Someone

else cannot create a POA that gives them the legal power to take your control away from you.

Making a power of attorney is always a voluntary decision, and you can revoke a POA at any

time as long as you still have legal capacity. If you have the mental and legal capacity to create a

POA, you have the right to revoke the paper as well. The level of capacity required to make and

sign a POA is the same as for entering into a contract or signing a will.

With the POA, your bank and other financial institutions will allow your agent to do the things

that you specify in the POA, the same as if you were there in person to make those

transactions.


Short-Term POAs

One of the most common uses for a short-term POA is to empower someone else to attend and

sign documents for you if you will not be available to attend a real estate closing. The POA will

contain specific terms that limit what your agent (not your real estate agent, but the person

you name in the POA) is allowed to do.

The POA will expire soon after the closing. The person who serves as your agent signs the

closing documents in your name, with the deed, title, and other papers being for your benefit,

not the benefit of the agent. The agent is not allowed to take any actions other than those

specified in the POA.

With a POA, you will not have to cancel your vacation or reschedule the closing. You can truly

have your cake and eat it, too. You can go ahead with your travel plans and buy the house of

your dreams.

 

Long-Term POAs

There are two main categories of long-term POAs – medical and financial. A medical power of

attorney lets you decide who will make decisions for you or follow your instructions if you

become incapacitated. A financial POA, also called a general power of attorney, empowers

someone to handle your financial matters if you become unable to do so or if you would rather

not be bothered with money management.

These POAs need to be “durable,” which means that they are still valid if you become

incapacitated. You could have a POA that is not durable, but you should talk with a lawyer

about whether that document will meet your needs.


The Danger of Having a POA

One of the greatest risks of giving another person the legal authority to handle your money or

other assets is that they might use the POA to steal from you. Trust is one of the most crucial

factors in entering into a POA.


The Risk of Serving as Someone’s Agent Under a POA

Sometimes, an agent can be personally liable for actions taken under a POA. You do not want to

get accused of mishandling someone else’s money. Honest mistakes are seldom grounds for

personal liability, but gross negligence that causes financial harm to others could lead to a

lawsuit.

A Missouri estate planning attorney at the Faulstich Law Firm can answer your questions about

powers of attorney and draft the document for you or review a POA someone has asked you to

sign. Also, we can provide guidance on how to fulfill your duties as an agent under someone

else’s power of attorney.

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