Over the Counter Power of Attorney Kit Review
When I went to waste money buy the first packet – Over the Counter Wills kit – I also picked up a General Power of Attorney kit made by the same people. It cost me about $10.00 and when I opened it just now, there were actually 3 Power of Attorneys (POA) in there. 3 for the price of 1 – again! They give great deals apparently.
There are 15 spaces, all lined up, for you to put your initials next to. If you want to grant the power holder these specific powers, you must initial next to each power. If you don’t want your power holder to have those powers, you cross out the line and don’t initial next to it. This looks an awful lot like a New York POA Short Form. Here in Massachusetts, we don’t use a short form of our POA like New York residents can, but I guess this company didn’t know that.
These 15 or so powers don’t really have a description of the powers either. It simply says for example, “Real estate transactions” or “Banking transactions”. Those look like headings of my POA rather than the actual legal text of it. Specificity is the key to good legal drafting and “Banking transactions” is not nearly as specific as
To open and close accounts, make, receive, and endorse checks and drafts, deposit and withdraw funds, acquire and redeem certificates of deposit, in banks, savings and loan associations, and other institutions, execute or release such deeds of trust or other security agreements as may be necessary or proper in the exercise of the rights and powers herein granted;
which is the exact language of the POAs that I write for my clients.
Here in Massachusetts, I have witnessed many financial institutions that are very nit-picky about anyone coming into their bank with a POA. They don’t like it and they don’t trust it. And quite frankly, they have a right and duty to be skeptical. A POA gives the power holder extremely broad powers and authority. As such, I have seen banks refuse to accept a POA that is many years old; or one that is ripped; or one that had multiple staples on it; etc. How do you think a bank or other financial institution will treat a $10.00 POA if presented with one here in Massachusetts that was clearly not drafted by an attorney?
One of the good things about their POA is that it includes an incapacity clause that allows the POA to stay in effect, even if you were to become incapacitated (which really is the main purpose of a Durable General Power of Attorney after all). However, the bad thing about their POA is that you must specifically initial next to it in order for the power to be granted.
But the main problem with all these cheap, over the counter, legal forms is not their substance (although it lacks a lot of be desired). The main problem really is that they expect the consumer to know exactly what it is they need. Notice that I didn’t say “want.” Because I have found that many of my clients come to me to ask me for what they want and my job as their attorney is to tell them what they need.
These forms will never substitute for good legal advice. It will never substitute for the thought and insight and individualized planning that an estate planning attorney will give to their clients. It will however, give you 3 cheap (and possibly useless) power of attorneys for the price of 2 happy meals. Enjoy!