Judge reading paper in courtThis is the next post in my series on creating and managing a power of attorney in Hartford, Connecticut. My last article discussed the process of challenging a power of attorney. It is important to understand that, by and large, challenges to a power of attorney proceed through the system as do other lawsuits. The core exception being that such matters are heard by the Probate Court. If you need to bring such a challenge, then you must follow proper procedures or you run the risk of your claims being dismissed. An experienced attorney can assist you with ensuring that your matter is handled properly. In this article we will discuss steps to ensure that your power of attorney is not overly vague. If you or a family member are in need of assistance, then contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation.

There are two primary ways in which a power of attorney can be too vague. The first is when broad language or ambiguities grant too much authority. The second is when narrow language or ambiguities result in less authority being granted than what is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the document. I will discuss each of these instances in turn.

It is not uncommon for a power of attorney to provide overly broad authority. For example, an individual may wish to delegate authority over a single checking account to her child, while she will be out of the country so that the child may pay any household related bills which come due. Unfortunately, she completes a self-help form on her own which grants her child authority over the “account at bank [x],”.  Since she has multiple accounts at the bank, the child may then use this power of attorney to draw on any of the accounts under the parent’s name. Unfortunately, the broad nature of the delegation may result in a finding that the child acted within the authority of the power of attorney. The parent could have prevented this problem by stating a precise account number and, importantly, spelling out in the power of attorney exactly what type of expenses the account could be used to pay. While this is a simple example, it demonstrates the importance of providing as many specifics as possible when preparing a power of attorney.

It is also common for a power of attorney to be drafted in a way which does not convey certain needed authority. Suppose, again, that an individual grants their child authority over their bank accounts so that the child may pay all invoices and expenses related to the individual’s business. Unfortunately, the individual also wanted the child oversee certain transactions on behalf of the business but no such express authority was included in the power of attorney. Even though the child would be able to write checks to the vendors, they would not be able to sign contracts or enter into other binding agreements with the vendors. As a result, the individual’s business may go without needed supplies or services. This problem could have been avoided by spelling out that the child could have entered into certain types of agreements on the individual’s behalf.

The best way to ensure that your power of attorney is neither too broad or too narrow is to gain the assistance of an estate planning lawyer when preparing the document. Relying on fill in the blank self-help forms can quickly lead to problems as these forms are generalized to fit most situations. They are not tailored to your circumstances. By retaining experienced counsel, you help to ensure that the generated document meets your specific needs and that all possibilities were considered when creating the instrument.

If you need assistance with a power of attorney, then contact our office today to speak with a Hartford estate planning lawyer. Our firm has been serving the area for decades and we are proud of the level of service which we provide. This includes making your case a priority and ensuring that your documents are prepared as quickly as possible. Contact us online or by telephone today to schedule an appointment. 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.