From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: I have signed a General Power of Attorney giving my daughter the power to act for me, but I don’t want her to have it yet. I only want her to have it when (or if) I become unable to care for myself. Should I keep it in my safe deposit box? We both live in Philadelphia, so she is close by.
Safe deposit boxes work so well because they’re designed to keep people out. The problem with putting your General Power of Attorney in your safe deposit box is that if you become incapacitated, your daughter will likely be unable to get into the box.
According to the FDIC, the agency that insures most American banking institutions, you shouldn’t use a safe deposit box to store anything you or a family member might need to access in an emergency. If your daughter needs that document on a night or weekend when the bank’s closed, she’ll be stuck until the bank manager arrives the next business day. If you die, there’s a process to open the box, but it requires a death certificate and can take weeks.
And, if you’re alive but incapacitated, you’re stuck with a paradox: the document your daughter needs to gain access to the safe deposit box is stored—inside the safe deposit box she’s not allowed to open. You could put her name on the box, but that runs contrary to your wish. If her name is on the box, she can get to that General Power of Attorney at any time.
This is a common problem. Our answer is to allow our clients to keep their Durable Powers of Attorney in our Will safes, free of charge. We would have you sign a document stating that you only want us to release your Power of Attorney to your daughter if you have become incapacitated.
If your daughter arrived at our office to request your Power of Attorney, we would then ask your location and how to contact you. Normally, the Agent directs us to a hospital where we can confirm that the client has become incapacitated. We then release the Power of Attorney and the Agent is then free to use it to care for the client.
BUT, every so often we find out that our client is, in fact, not incapacitated. In those cases, the Power of Attorney was kept out of the hands of an Agent who might have otherwise used the Power of Attorney to embezzle or steal from our client.
If you would like to store your Power of Attorney with us, please feel free to contact me.
If you need assistance with developing your Estate Plan in Philadelphia County, please call one of our Probate Lawyers or Estate Planning Attorneys for a free consultation.