Is a Power of Attorney a license to steal or a helpful tool? The answer is that it can be either. A power of attorney in the wrong hands can be used to financially exploit you. You can and should read about financial exploitation.
A power of attorney is simple. It provides great flexibility. It is private. A power of attorney gives someone else great power over your personal affairs. A power of attorney makes that someone your agent and your agent’s acts can bind you without your knowledge. That power can be exercised to help you conduct your affairs whether or not you are able to handle your affairs yourself. That power can also be used to change your estate plan without your knowing it. Unfortunately that power can be and frequently is used to take your money. That power can be used to financially exploit you. If and when you grant someone a power of attorney, you must carefully consider and balance your objectives and your concerns. You must carefully consider who will receive your power of attorney and become your attorney-in-fact (the person who will be your agent). You must carefully consider what powers you will give your attorney-in-fact.
Always remember that just because you grant someone a power of attorney does not mean that you are no longer in charge. You are in charge of your life and your affairs as long as you have capacity. If your attorney-in-fact tells you that you have to do what he or she wants, you may want to consider replacing that person. That person may want to be in charge of your life and that should be a red flag to you.
The Minnesota Legislature recently adopted amendments to Minnesota’s power of attorney of statute which rebalance the desire for flexibility, ease of use, privacy, safety, and protection of you and of third parties who take action based on the acts of your attorney-in-fact. Call your estate planning attorney so that you can update your power of attorney. Although we handle disputes over the creation and use of powers of attorneys, we do not prepare any estate planning documents or powers of attorney.