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.