Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Teacher Within: Powers of Attorney End At Death

The Teacher Within: Powers of Attorney End At Death
By Melinda Gustafson Gervasi

Nearly every day of my elementary school days I "played school" upon returning home.  My older brother, 10 years my senior, thought I was a weird kid.  My parents thought they would raise a teacher.  Wrong!  A lawyer emerged.  What my family did not realize was the extent to which a lawyer educates as part of her legal practice.

Today's lesson -- powers of attorney end with death.  It is a new concept to my clients, who suddenly find themselves wading into the terms and processes associated with planning for, and administering an estate.  I will get a call in which I hear "I am my dad's power of attorney, and he died last week, what do I do?".  My answer: "you were his power of attorney.  That authority ended with death.  Was there a will or trust?  If so, who was appointed to act now?  Who is the Personal Representative and/or trustee?" And the educating begins.

What startles me is the number of times, usually weekly, that I need to provide this lesson to financial professionals.  Today it was a huge company's retirement division.  The front line staff refusing the court appointed Personal Representative's request for W2 information.  The proper paperwork from the court was provided.  Yet, Customer Service Rep #1973 demanded a Power of Attorney.  Tone cannot accurately be determined from an email, but it certainly appeared authoritative with a hint of indignation. My work day ended with a short informative lesson about the laws here in the Great State of Wisconsin, and a hope that the "student" we see the light, and release the necessary information. 

No, I do not hand out grades or edit papers in the way of our  public school teachers.  But I do put on an educator hat on regularly, ready to educate and hopefully ease the already difficult path of filing incomes taxes for a recently departed loved one. See mom, I am a teacher in a way!  And hopefully a bit kinder than Prof. Kingsfield.

Please note that a blog is NOT legal advice.  It is intended to spark conversation, and nothing more.  Please consult an attorney in your state of residence for legal advice specific to your situation.

No comments: