I am a New Jersey resident. Now that I have married my partner, I would like to give her a General Durable Power of Attorney, but am concerned about surrendering so much power over my assets. I have heard stories about spouses abusing Powers of Attorney. How can I protect myself?
A general, durable power of attorney is a key part of any estate plan. A Will covers what happens to your assets if you have died, but the durable power of attorney is meant to cover the time when you are alive yet unable to handle your own financial affairs. The problem that exists, and of which you speak, is that if you give your Agent the power of attorney document, they have the power to withdraw from your bank accounts, sell real estate and gather your tax information.
Sometimes spouses do use this power improperly. How to protect yourself from an agent gone bad? First, you can always name more than one person to act as agent. Co-agents can be obligated to work together, so you now have a team and they can keep an eye on one another. Second, most of my clients leave their power of attorney in my fireproof Will safes. If the client prepares written instructions for me, I can only release the power of attorney to the client or to the agent; but only to the agent if the client has become incapacitated.
This way if the agent calls my office, it is my obligation to investigate your status. If I confirm that you are in the hospital, incapacitated, I then release the document and your agent can act. If I find you at home comfortably watching television, then you are informed that your agent has been asking for your document but they have not been able to cause any harm.
If you have questions about LGBT Estate Planning in New Jersey, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation.
Wills, Trusts and Estates, It’s all we do!
-Peter L. Klenk, Esq.
-Adam D. Reid, Esq.