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Texas POA: effect of signing without noting "as POA"

Arlington, TX |

1. My father was a mentally incapable patient in a nursing home.
2. I had his durable POA.
3. I signed financial responsibility forms for medical care on his behalf.
4. I did not write in any notation that I was signing for him.
5. He is now deceased, and his will was probated without an administration. I am am named executor in his will.
6. I am being sued in small claims court for some medical expenses.
7. The financial responsibility form shows his name as patient, "responsible party" is blank, and my signature on the line.
8. Our names are the same except for the "Jr." suffix which I omitted as is my habit, but I won't deny signing.
9. I want to deny due to it is my deceased father's debt and not my own.
10. Will the Court agree with me?

If the debt is valid I will pay, but their response to my request for substantiation was a 7-month delay followed by a threat of legal action. The creditor is a pharmacy who delivers drugs to the nursing home. I replied reiterating my request for documentation and received a detail invoice, but no delivery receipt, followed by a visit from the constable 2 days later with the citation. I think if the judge decides it's a debt of the decedent they will have to petition the probate court for an ancillary administration. The decedent was domiciled in Louisiana and the will probated there; he had no assets in Texas.

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

I agree with my colleagues. You have done a great job outlining your question and the underlying facts. I am not familiar with Texas small claims court. In California, the small claims court has significant discretion to provide for an equitable resolution. If you erroneously executed the financial responsibility documents, the court will hopefully agree with your position. If the debt (including the costs that will be added) is not significant, you should roll the dice to see how it plays out in small claims court. If the debt is significant, it may be prudent to spend an hour or so with a local attorney going though the facts so that you have a more detailed and thorough understanding of the facts and the application of law.

When responding to questions posted on Avvo, I provide a general purpose response based on California law as I am licensed in California. In reviewing my response, you are specifically advised that your use of, or reliance upon any response I provide is not advisable. I do not have all relevant background details or facts related to your issue / matter, thus I am not in a position to give you legal advice. Further, your review, use of, or reliance upon my response does not establish an attorney-client relationship between us nor does it qualify as a legal consultation for any purpose. For specific advice regarding your particular circumstances, you should consult and retain local counsel.

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1 comment

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

One thing Asker *could* try would be to argue jurisdiction, point out that the estate is in LA and ask to have it removed there.

Posted

Given your additional information, I am inclined to agree with you. My concern, however, is that it appears that you signed to be the "responsible party." That generally makes you liable for the debt. In order to protect yourself, you could have signed your name, as agent under the POA. Hindsight is 20/20, however. If they are suing you, you need to respond. I am not sure if you can use attorneys in small claims actions in Texas. In Michigan, you cannot.

You might benefit from purchasing an hour or two of attorney time, regardless. If the debt is significant, the attorney can help you to present your position in the best light possible.

James Frederick

*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state.

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4 comments

Asker

Posted

Does this matter: The vendor was not present when I signed the form (signed in a stack of other forms when we checked him in), so they extended credit with the (correct) understanding that the patient is the responsible party, since the signature matches the patient's name. I'm hoping the incorrect form of the signature doesn't automatically make me responsible; rather, my intent together with the fact that no one was harmed by reliance on an assumption that there was another responsible party. My other defense is lack of evidence, since they waited so long then filed suit rather than provide documentary support for their claim. Thanks!

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

I do not think that will make a lot of difference. I think that your best argument is that this is not your debt, but your father's estate's. They would counter that you agreed to be responsible, and that would be up to the judge to decide. I think that they provided you with documentation of the debt, although it was done late. To me, if the debt was legitimate, then it should be paid. It should really come from the estate, to be technically correct. I am just concerned that they may hold you responsible because you signed the form in your individual capacity and not under the POA. At least, in small claims court, the costs are minimal. Let us know how it turns out!

Asker

Posted

"the judge to decide" -- that's what I needed to know. I wonder if there's any rules or guidelines or cases they follow?

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

Mr. Paxton would be the best person to ask that question.

Posted

You did a good job of presenting the facts. I share Mr. Frederick's concern that you may have signed as a responsible party. It is impossible for an attorney to express an opinion about the legal effect of a document without having reviewed the entire document. Small Claims court in Texas is designed for non-lawyers. Lawyers can appear there but in my experience they often do no better than non-lawyers because the rules of procedure and evidence don't apply. They are not courts "of record". That means that the loser in Small Claims court can appeal to the county court at law (short time for appeal) and the whole case is tried over again in the county court at law where a lawyer can be of great help. Another alternative is for you to use a lawyer to "coach" you prior to your trial in Small Claims court. An hour of an experienced attorney's time would do you great good. But, you must answer the lawsuit on time or the court will sign a default judgment against you.

DISCLAIMER: This is not specific legal advice and does not establish an attorney/client relationship.

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