Is a person who has power of attorney allowed to sign the name of the person that they have that power over to benefit themselves?

Asked on July 17, 2014 under Estate Planning, Maine

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

A person who has been designated as a “Power of Attorney” is an agent of the principal (i.e. the person giving the POA). When the agent accepts the authority granted under the POA, a special legal relationship is formed which imposes certain legal obligations or “fiduciary duties” on the agent. They must follow the instructions given by the principal and, if the principal’s wishes are not specific, they should do what is in the best interests of the principal. In other words, the agent must act in accordance with the principal’s best interests, not their own interests. These means that they must act in good faith, with care, competence and diligence. So, for example, they must keep the principal’s money and property separate from their own property to avoid “co-mingling.” Bottom line, an agent must act with the highest degree of good faith on behalf of the principal; if they don’t the agent can be held liable in court for breach of their fiduciary duty.


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