We are continuing our discussion of the changes to the law governing powers of attorney. At the end of our last post, we mentioned that the new law amends the text of the notice that appears at the beginning of the power of attorney document. For those of us who rely on reading glasses more and more, the General Assembly has not changed the requirement that the entire notice be in capital letters.
Just a quick reminder before we go into more detail: The principal is the person giving another person the authority to manage some or all of his affairs. The agent is the person who receives that authority when the power of attorney goes into effect.
First, the notice no longer directs the agent to keep his and the principal's funds separate. Instead, the agent is directed to act in the best interests of the principal and in line with the principal's "reasonable expectation." There is more, it seems, to acting in another person's best interests than keeping separate checking accounts.
The notice also includes a couple of caveats for the principal. There is a warning that a power of attorney can authorize the agent to act on behalf of the principal in many capacities. Specifically, the notice calls attention to the agent's power to give the principal's property away, not to mention the power to change how the principal's property is distributed at death. Principals should remember, then, that the power of attorney can be limited to specific authorities: financial matters, for example, or living arrangements.
Because the principal can grant any amount of authority to the agent intentionally or unintentionally, the notice also advises the principal to consult with an attorney before signing anything, including the notice.
The notice still includes a signature line for the principal. While the signature is not required, it will make matters easier if someone challenges the power of attorney. With the signature, the challenger must prove to the court that the power of attorney is defective. Without the signature, the agent bears that burden.
We'll continue this in our next post.
Source: Legal Intelligencer, "Key Provisions of the New Power of Attorney Law: Act 95," Amy Neifeld Shkedy and Rebecca Rosenberger Smolen, March 6, 2015