On October 1st, the State of Connecticut put in force a new law governing powers of attorney (POAs) called the Connecticut Uniform Power of Attorney Act. The Act attempts to clarify certain things that were unclear under the prior law, but any powers of attorney made prior to its passage are grandfathered in. Some of the Act’s most noteworthy provisions include:
- Banks are now required to accept notarized POAs. Previously, many people who have been designated a power of attorney, called an “agent,” faced serious obstacles when trying to do banking on behalf of their client, called the “principal.”
- The updated law also mandates an automatic severing of a ex-spouse from his or her partner’s POA. The same provision also applies to couples who have begun the divorce process but have not finished it.
- The Act also creates a statutory form that addresses other matters relevant to the estate of the principal, requiring him or her to affirmatively designate additional POA powers. This provision was intended to discourage elder abuse.
Despite these added protections, it is still important to review your estate planning documents with an attorney regularly. A POA is a very broad authorization that means somebody (your agent) can access anything you have. Once the document is finalized, it must be signed in the presence of two disinterested witnesses and notarized.
When the principal is making the decision as to whom should be his or her agent(s), he or she may choose to designate more than one person as a POA. For example, one of my clients has made me the POA of her finances, while appointing someone else to make healthcare decisions. This client took seriously the duties associated with having a POA and selected agents who were the best fit for her situation. Factors you may want to weigh when selecting an agent include trustworthiness, the presence of drug or money problems, and confidence that all decisions will be made with the principal in mind.
POAs are vital in cases where the principal has a serious medical condition, but they can also be designated to act when the principal is out of the country, or countless other scenarios in which he or she will not be able to make decisions.
When the rockstar Prince succumbed to a drug overdose, he left his estate in chaos because he had no will or POA. Much of his estate is now being eaten up in the probate process, accumulating exorbitant attorney’s fees. Preventing a situation such as that from happening in your life does take a visit to your attorney’s office, who will charge some money. But the benefits to thinking ahead while you still think clearly far outweigh the cost of doing nothing.
For more information on POAs, contact me.