Power of Attorney Litigation
A power of attorney (“POA”) is a legal document where a principal appoints an attorney-in-fact to take actons on the principal’s behalf. The authority granted to an attorney-in-fact most often pertains to financial decisions and healthcare decisions. An attorney-in-fact owes a fiduciary duty to the principal and must act in the principal’s best interests.
The probate court usually hears all disuputes pertaining to actions taken by an attorney-in-fact. Because power of attorney documents are frequently created by and between family members, Missouri law outlines certain situations in which other family members may petition the court for relief to provide redress for wrongdoings committed by an attorney-in-fact. For example, if a principal is incapacitated, an adult member of the principal’s family or “any interested person,” may request that the Court (1) order the attorney in fact to exercise or refrain from exercising authority in a durable power of attorney in a particular manner or for a particular purpose; (2) modify the authority of an attorney in fact under a durable power of attorney; (3) declare suspended a power of attorney that is not durable; (4) terminate a durable power of attorney; (5) remove the attorney in fact under a durable power of attorney; (6) confirm the authority of an attorney in fact or a successor attorney in fact to act under a durable power of attorney; and (7) issue such other orders as the court finds will be in the best interest of the disabled or incapacitated principal, including appointment of a guardian or conservator for the principal.
Unfortunately, sometimes an attorney-in-fact abuses his/her authority and commits a breach of fiduciary duty; a suit, then, may be necessary to put a halt to the wrongdoing. In worse situations, a disgruntled third-party may file a suit and seek relief when none is warranted. In either scenairio, it is important to consult with legal counsel.