When Aunt Gertrude appointed her niece Milly to be her attorney in fact through the Power of Attorney document, she never dreamed she would have to consider what to do if she suspected her niece was not doing the right thing. “That’s Milly. . .she would never do anything to hurt me,” Aunt Gertrude thought.“Why, I’ve known her since she was born. She’s family” So Aunt Gertrude didn’t ask the attorney if there was any sort of “oversight” built in to the Power of Attorney document they were both signing at the attorney’s office that day. She didn’t think she would need it.
The truth is, when anyone executes a Power of Attorney document and appoints their niece Milly, their son, or their best friend, they are putting their trust in that person. The attorney in fact does not have a duty to report their actions to anyone, unless the Power of Attorney document they sign has some oversight built into it. And, sadly, the Power of Attorney documents which 99% of us have signed do not have any oversight built into them.
Here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we have an “Agent’s acknowledgment” which the attorney in fact or agent is required to sign. It essentially says “I promise to do the right thing.” (That may be a too-loose translation, but you get the idea) The agent, however, is not required to reveal any of his or her actions to anyone.
At Mateya Law Firm, we have changed that. We have added language which requires the agent to produce a written record of any and all the actions taken on behalf of the principal. The concept is built on the same logic as “good fences make good neighbors.”
We would be happy to explain to you how a power of attorney document can help you, and how it can help protect against the nefarious “Niece Milly” in your life.
The agent’s acknowledgement requires the agent to act for the benefit of the principal, keep assets of the principal separate from my assets, exercise reasonable caution and prudence, keep a full and accurate record of all actions, receipts, and disbursements on behalf of the principal.