Time and time again we see cases of inadequate powers of attorney which fail to provide sufficient authority to act. These documents usually obtained on-line through legal providers or Trust mills provide generic, basic provisions that can fall short of a client's needs. The recent case of Metlife Insurance Company v. Sumner is an example. In that case, the wife attempted to change an old beneficiary designation of husband's life insurance from the husband's adult children from a prior marriage to a Trust for the benefit of their minor child. She utilized the power of attorney which provided a general authorization clause giving the wife powers in which the principal (owner/husband, who is now incapacitated) possessed over the policy. The Court held that the general powers clause was insufficient to give the wife specific power to change the beneficiary designation without express power to do so in the document.
A recent case in Tennessee reveals the problems that can arise with Financial Durable Powers of Attorney (DPA). In that case, mom designated her daughter to be her financial agent in the DPA. The daughter and her husband moved in with the mother to care for her and take responsibilities for her monthly expenses. The husband prepared her tax returns. Basically, the daughter and step-son had total control of her finances.