Recent Estate Law Changes
Powers of Attorney are invaluable legal documents which allow an individual (the “Principal”) to appoint another person (the “Agent” or “Attorney-in-Fact”) to act on the Principal’s behalf for financial matters. Powers of Attorney are particularly helpful if the Principal becomes incapacitated, but are also convenient if the Principal needs another person to attend a real estate settlement, or to otherwise handle business and financial matters on the Principal’s behalf.
Effective October 1, 2010, the Maryland legislature enacted new laws regarding Powers of Attorney. The new laws provide that Powers of Attorney must be witnessed by two witnesses and notarized. The Agent is required by the new laws to keep detailed records and to act in the best interests of the Principal.
The new Power of Attorney laws contain forms for Powers of Attorney signed after October 1, 2010. While you do not have to use the forms provided in the new Maryland statute, there are benefits to doing so. If you sign one of the new forms in the proper manner, then banks, title companies, and other institutions are required to honor the Power of Attorney, and can be sued if they fail to honor it. The lawsuit can also include a request for reasonable attorneys’ fees.
Powers of Attorney signed before October 1, 2010 are not invalidated by the new laws and can generally be used in the same manner as before. Nevertheless, given the added benefits of the new laws such as the ability to sue for refusal to honor the Power of Attorney, now is a good time to have your Power of Attorney updated. We would be happy to meet with you to review and update your Power of Attorney, as well as your Will, Trust(s), Health Care Advance Directive, and all of your other estate planning documents.