Are You Personally Liable for Acting as a Power of Attorney?

In my opinion, the single most important legal document one can have while alive is a Durable Power of Attorney. It is a necessary part of everyone’s estate planning. It is the document designed to help one avoid having to be placed under a court-ordered guardianship if one loses his or her mental capacity and can no longer handle day to day financial decisions, such as bill paying or other routine banking.

If you are the one who has been appointed to act as Agent under a person’s Durable Power of Attorney, a simple mis-step and you can fall into the trap of assuming personal liability for the bills of the Principal (the person on whose behalf you are acting). In a recent situation, a friend of an elderly gentleman was signing paperwork after he was admitted to the rehab center. She was appointed as his Agent under Durable Power of Attorney, so she signed her name on the paperwork. What she did not know is that she signed her name as the responsible party, rather than acting in a representative capacity on his behalf; and she made herself personally liable for his nursing home debt. 

To avoid this personal liability, if one is signing any papers as Agent under another person’s Durable Power of Attorney, always add the initials “P.O.A.” behind your signature. Then, you are indicating that you are only the Agent of the person on whose behalf you are signing; and you should not be putting your own finances at risk.

At Hemnes Faller, we understand the problems you and your family are facing and are here to work with you on finding solutions tailored towards your needs and goals. We want you to get the many benefits of having an estate plan in place, while avoiding the pitfalls one can face without such a plan in place. With a comprehensive estate plan, you can not only help ensure that your affairs are properly handled, even in the event of incapacitation or death, but you can help work to protect your goals for yourself and your loved ones.

We are available to assist with all of your estate planning needs. Work with our team to develop a strong estate plan that you can count on. Please reach out to our office to schedule an appointment.