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Law Office of Rick Todd Blog

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Problems with the Power of Attorney

Here in the Columbia and Ellicott City Axis, I regularly write Powers of Attorney for my clients. Generally I draft them as part of an estate planning package, but occasionally I draft them alone for the unique issues that client may have. Powers of attorney are for the very ill, not for the deceased, which is a common mistake that clients make.

The Power of Attorney document often does not work. The most common use for the “agent” of a power of attorney is to attempt to access a sick person’s bank account in order to pay medical bills. Most large banks will make it difficult to impossible for the agent to access another person’s account even if they have the legal right to do so. Why? Because they do not believe that someone with a piece of paper with a notary stamp really has this right. They may be thief. And don’t even try this over the phone.

The State of Maryland has created a statute to fight this: §17–104. With a court order a person may force a financial institution to obey the power of attorney agent and be forced to pay the agent’s attorney’s fees.

But getting a court order takes time and effort. And it takes money up front. In the meantime bills may need to be paid. All this because a big company refuses to obey the law because they would rather reject a customer than see a small hike in their liability insurance.

My advice to clients is to prepare: get a power of attorney with your own financial institution. That will likely be accepted. Use joint accounts to easily transfer money.

And one last note: This blocking of people from using the power of attorney is not just limited to banks. Anything that requires a password is an issue. I recommend that clients save their passwords with someone they trust or at least put somewhere where it can be accessed after death.


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The Law Offices of Rick Todd is located in Columbia, MD and Chevy Chase, MD (Friendship Heights) serve clients throughout Clarksville, Columbia, Ellicott City, Fulton, Rockville, Bethesda, Potomac, Laurel, Howard County, Montgomery County, and Washington D.C.



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