This is the next post in a series of articles discussing powers of attorney in Hartford, Connecticut. The previous article focused on the specific legal requirements that must be met for a power of attorney to be valid. If not followed, one’s agent may not be able to take action on your behalf as planned, which could have negative implications, financial and otherwise. In the post, we will address the potential consequences of issuing a power of attorney. An experienced attorney can explain the ramifications and help you design a document to accomplish your goals while protecting your interests. If you need assistance, contact our office today to speak with a lawyer.
As discussed previously in this series, a power of attorney grants an agent the authority to take actions and make decisions on behalf of the principal. The document may grant very specific powers to the agent, such as the ability to sign a legal document in place of the principal while the principal is out of town. Alternatively, a power of attorney may grant broad authority to an agent to handle real property, bank accounts, investments, insurance issues and more on the principal’s behalf. For obvious reasons, a principal should carefully consider the scope of the powers being granted and to whom. It is important to remember that a power of attorney is a legal document with significant potential ramifications. Discussing the document with a lawyer prior to signing it can give you a clear understanding of the document’s scope to avoid unintended consequences.
Consider the following extreme example. An elderly woman wants to grant her neighbor a limited financial power of attorney so that the neighbor can cash the woman’s social security checks for her at the bank. The woman doesn’t know the neighbor very well, but her family lives out of town and she needs someone to handle this task on her behalf since her mobility has become limited. The neighbor finds a Connecticut statutory power of attorney form on the internet and explains to the woman that by signing the form in front of witnesses and a notary, the neighbor will be able to cash her checks. Without completely understanding the form, the woman signs the document. The woman does not understand that she has just granted the neighbor authority to handle much more than cashing checks. If the neighbor is unscrupulous, she may take advantage of the situation to withdraw other funds, steal invested money or sign other legal documents on the woman’s behalf. Even worse, the Connecticut long form power of attorney includes estate planning powers, such as revoking or changing trust documents or beneficiary designations. If not removed from the form per the specific legal requirements, the woman may have just given the neighbor the authority to change her will. The woman’s family may be surprised to find that the neighbor had taken these actions under a valid power of attorney. Had she obtained legal advice in advance, the woman may have decided to narrow the power of attorney to the very specific intended purpose and may have chosen a more familiar and trustworthy agent.
Powers of attorney can be extremely helpful in managing one’s affairs, however, a principal should not enter into the document lightly. Consulting with an attorney can help you understand which documentation will achieve your goals without putting your interests at risk. Our firm has over 50 years of experience in Hartford, Connecticut. Call us today to speak with a lawyer. We also service the areas of Wethersfield, New Britain, Rocky Hill, East and West Hartford, Bristol, Glastonbury, and Manchester, as well as the Middlesex County cities of Middletown and Cromwell.