From our “Ask a Question” Mailbag: What Steps to Take When An Agent Won’t Return a Power of Attorney
Most Recently Updated August 1, 2018.
“After a 10-year relationship in Camden County, New Jersey, my Partner and I have parted ways. Previously, I gave him a General Durable Power of Attorney, but now he won’t return my Power of Attorney. Can he use this power of attorney to empty my bank account?”
What Steps to Take When An Agent Won’t Return a Power of Attorney
Dangerous words, “He Won’t Return My Power Of Attorney,” Because a POA In the Wrong Hands Can Do Damage.
I would need to see your actual document to be sure, but most Durable General Powers of Attorney have no end date and give the Agent full rights to manage financial accounts. If your POA provides this power and if your Partner has a signed copy, he can likely use it to empty your bank accounts. Under these circumstances this would be theft, but when under stress sometimes people do stupid things.
See my website for Power of Attorney FAQs.
Revoke the Power of Attorney.
For your safety, you should formally revoke the Power of Attorney and inform your Partner. You may void most Powers of Attorney verbally. But, when dealing with a hostile person a written revocation is better. Further, you should inform all your financial institutions of the repeal. If you notify them the Power of Attorney is no longer valid, they should place this data in the record. Having notice will help them prevent your former partner from using the document. Further, if he tries to use the POA and is successful, the institution is now at fault.
Utilizing the Court Might be Necessary.
If necessary, you can have an Estate Planning Attorney experienced in estate litigation use the courts to force your Partner to return any and all copies of the Power of Attorney. Because in many jurisdictions, a photocopy of the signed document has the same power as the original. A court order might be necessary to force your partner to destroy all copies. This way your former partner will be in contempt of court if he later uses the document. The court order can help you feel comfortable that all copies and scans, as well as the original document, have been destroyed.
For more information, see my website Article about Removal of Agents Under Power of Attorney: Everything You Need to Know.
Store Your Power of Attorney With Your Estate Planning Lawyer.
Because of situations such as this, most of our clients have us hold the original document in our will safes. If they become incapacitated, we give the Agent the Financial Power of Attorney. Until then the Agent has no signed copy. If the Agent has no copy, this helps reduce the chance of abuse should you have a falling out.
Time for a New Power of Attorney.
Not only do you need to recover your old Power of Attorney, but you also need a new Power of Attorney. In that respect, I exclusively focus my practice on estate planning. And, I am happy to work with you to ensure your new document is safe and secure. I am glad to walk you through your estate planning options over the phone or in person.
More Planning Questions?
The Power of Attorney is only a piece of the Estate Planning process. By all means, if you want to learn more, please read my more detailed article, Estate Planning Everything You Need to Know.
In Conclusion: Agent Won’t Return a Power of Attorney
I hope that this article was helpful in explaining what to do if an agent won’t return a Power of Attorney. Further, I included links to even more detailed information on my website so you can learn more. Therefore, please contact me and let me know how I did. Certainly, your comments and questions are welcome!
Let our Estate Planning lawyers help walk you through what can be a confusing process. To begin with, call to speak to one of our experienced estate planning lawyers. By all means, our lawyers are ready to answer your questions. In fact, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. Ultimately our goal is to make the process as painless as possible!
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