What are a Power of Attorney’s responsibilities to beneficiaries of a life insurance policy?

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What are a Power of Attorney’s responsibilities to beneficiaries of a life insurance policy?

My mother passed away 6 months ago; she was 89. She had 3 life insurance policies that she told me about years ago when she indicated her intention that all 3 children divide the survivor’s benefits equally upon her death. I just found out that my sister secretly got POA from Mom in 2004 and cashed out all 3 policies at that time. She received all the proceeds with no notice to myself or our brother, who passed away in 2007. Is my sister perhaps liable to me for a 2-way split of those proceeds?

Asked on February 28, 2011 under Estate Planning, California

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss.  Being entrusted with a Power of Attorney is a very important task.  You become the fiduciary of the party for whom it is written and if you violate the fiduciary powers then you can indeed be held liable to the estate.  Now, is there a Will or did your Mother die intestate (without a Will)?  Someone needs to be appointed as the Personal Representative of her estate (a power of attorney dies with the party for whom it is written).   Once appointed you will be given the Power to bring an action against your sister if she acted outside the scope of her appointment and used the money not for the benefit of your Mother. But check the statute of limitations on the matter here as well.  Good luck to you.


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