Consumer beware: Understanding designating a power of attorney

Sue Daugherty
Mar 23, 2010

I receive a very informative newsletter from attorney John Ball with Meyers, Browning & Ball. They are elder law attorneys (www.elderlaw.us).  

The bulk of their work is estate planning. Their recent issue talks about granting power of attorney to a trusted friend or relative in the event something unexpected happens and you cannot take care of your day-to-day personal business. The power of attorney gives this power to someone else — that you have named — to act on your behalf.

When you think about it, this could be a very scary proposition. In fact, in the Meyers, Browning & Ball newsletter they inserted a New York Times article entitled, “Putting Your Faith In A Power of Attorney.”  The article cited Bernard A. Krooks, a specialist in elder law at Littman Krooks in New York, saying, “A power of attorney is a license to steal.” Nonetheless he encourages clients to sign a power of attorney. “You have to be careful who you appoint as your agent.”

Powers of attorney are a necessary evil. It’s not something you should take lightly — especially if you are an older person. The person to whom you are giving the power could take you for everything you’re worth.

Then again, if no bills get paid while you are incapacitated, you take the risk of losing much of what you own.