The New Connecticut Uniform Power of Attorney Law Part 1
A power of attorney allows an adult (the principal) to designate a trusted friend or family member (the agent) with legal authority to manage their affairs. Depending on the circumstances, a valid durable power of attorney can provide a means to manage the estate of someone who later becomes legally
OverviewBeginning October 1, 2016, significant changes to Connecticut law governing powers of attorney became effective. This, the first of a two-part series, highlights some changes that the new law creates.
AffordabilityThe changes in Connecticut law are designed to achieve several objectives. One objective is to preserve powers of attorney as an inexpensive means of incapacity planning that is flexible and private.
By providing a suggested form for a power of attorney, the new law greatly reduces an attorney's billable time, translating to lower costs for clients.
The power of attorney can grant broad authorities, or very narrow authority to an agent - for example, authority over a single transaction. The power of attorney may be drafted so it expires on a particular date, or it may have no expiration date. These features make a power of attorney very flexible.
Presumed ValidityThe new law establishes that a notarized power of attorney is presumed to be valid. It also provides a new form of affidavit stating that the power is in full force and effect. These two provisions are designed to encourage a third party, such as a financial institution, to honor valid powers of attorney, while also protecting them if they follow the law.
Agent as FiduciaryThe principal is protected by provisions governing how the agent must act. An unscrupulous agent may commit fraud against the principal; the new law is designed to minimize the potential for this (although it's impossible to completely prevent).
The new law requires the agent to act in accordance with the principal's reasonable
expectations, in good faith, and only within the scope of authority granted.
Estate Planning PowersAnother objective of the new law is to modernize powers of attorney so that retirement plans and certain estate planning documents could be managed under a power of attorney.
Some of these "new" powers (they were allowed under previous law if they were drafted into the power of attorney) include power to create, revoke, or terminate a living trust; authority to disclaim property; making gifts from the assets of the principal; and changing rights of survivorship.
Not a "Do It Yourself" DocumentAs a probate judge with over fourteen years on the bench, drafting and executing a power of attorney document should NEVER be attempted by a lay person. I've seen disastrous consequences when lay persons use online "forms" or unscrupulous internet providers who have little interest in their clients except for collecting a quick fee from the unwary.
If you believe you need a power of attorney, contact a qualified estate planning attorney who will guide you through the process of understanding what your needs are and how a properly drafted power of attorney may be one component of your estate plan.
DisclaimerTHIS ARTICLE IS NOT INTENDED TO BE, AND SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON AS LEGAL ADVICE. FOR INFORMATION ON YOUR SPECIFIC SITUATION, PLEASE CONTACT A QUALIFIED ATTORNEY.