Time and time again we see cases of inadequate powers of attorney which fail to provide sufficient authority to act. These documents usually obtained on-line through legal providers or Trust mills provide generic, basic provisions that can fall short of a client’s needs. The recent case of Metlife Insurance Company v. Sumner is an example. In that case, the wife attempted to change an old beneficiary designation of husband’s life insurance from the husband’s adult children from a prior marriage to a Trust for the benefit of their minor child. She utilized the power of attorney which provided a general authorization clause giving the wife powers in which the principal (owner/husband, who is now incapacitated) possessed over the policy. The Court held that the general powers clause was insufficient to give the wife specific power to change the beneficiary designation without express power to do so in the document.

As a result, the husband’s older adult children received the benefits leaving nothing for their minor child in this regard.

Other major inadequacies I have seen in reviewing numerous powers of attorney over the years are as follows:

  1. Unavailable agents to act for the principal signer of the document;
  2. No retirement plan provisions;
  3. No authority to amend the Living Trust for changes in the law; and
  4. No provision requiring review of account statements by agent to independent 3rd party.

Ensure your powers of attorney are correct and tailored for your purposes. Always have your powers of attorney reviewed along with your Living Trust for updates.