Keep the Power in Your Power of Attorney

A general durable power of attorney (“POA”) is an essential part of an effective estate plan.

A properly drafted POA appoints a trusted and financially knowledgeable person–the “attorney”–to handle the signer’s finances if he or she is unable to do so.

A POA “attorney” will likely have transactions, on behalf of the POA’s principal, with banks, other financial institutions, utilities and credit card companies.

But what if a bank, as one example, doesn’t like your POA’s “look,” or only accepts its own POA form? And what if the POA’s principal is no longer capable of signing a “new” POA?

Can the bank undo the principal’s careful planning on a whim? Not necessarily.

A Wisconsin POA is generally effective when the principal signs it. That signature is presumed to be genuine, if the principal acknowledges the POA in writing, before a notary, on the POA itself.

With such acknowledgement, a person such as a bank representative cannot refuse to accept the POA solely because the bank “requires” an additional or different POA form.

True, a bank can legally ask the principal to sign a different form. But if the answer is “no,” the bank must accept the acknowledged POA, unless it has good faith issues with the POA beyond its formatting.

For example, a bank can lawfully refuse to accept a POA if the bank has other reasons, aside from its form preference, to question the POA.

The bank may question the POA’s underlying validity, the principal’s competence at signing, or its provisions’ meaning.

FOS’s estate planning attorneys’ POAs are widely accepted by financial and other institutions.

If appropriate, your FOS attorney can contact a financial institution, even before a POA is signed, to confirm its acceptance. And if your POA is rejected, your attorney can help resolve the problem.