Can a POA take everything from the family before the principal person dies?

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Can a POA take everything from the family before the principal person dies?

My husband’s sister made herself POA of his mother’s estate and signed everything to herself. The family house, as well as all the land involved. Can she legally do this if the mother did not have any say so or permitted her to do this? Their mother has now passed and no other family member has any right to anything now. One other sister has their mother on video stating her daughter the POA did not have any right in putting the house or land in her name that she was being greedy. She did not place land or the house in any other family member’s name as requested by their mother. What can be done?

Asked on July 10, 2017 under Estate Planning, Louisiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Other family members who reasonably or presumably would have inherited had anything been left (and so have an economic stake in what happens; i.e. have "standing" to sue, to use the legal term) can sue the POA sister, as can the executor administratory of the estate, who acts on behalf of the state and all heirs/beneficiaries. An attorney-in-fact or agent (those are the correct terms for the person granted authority by a POA) has a fiduciary duty to the principal (the person giving her the power) to act in accordance with the principal's best interests and wishes, and to NOT engage in "self-dealing," or taking advantage for herself. What you describe certainly appears to be self-dealing--acting in her own interest, not in the mother's interest or in accordance with her wishes--and so may be a violation of fiduciary duty. If a court agrees this was a breach of fiduciary duty, the agent can be forced to return everything she took. If you or others want to consider this option, you should consult with a trusts and estates attorney.


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