Successor in Interest, Powers of Attorney

The term “successor in interest,” as of this writing, has not been defined in the context of power of attorney litigation. When someone mismanages his/her authority under a power of attorney, the principal, or his/her successors in interest, can file suit. The relevant statute defines “successor in interest”:

“For purposes of this section, the principal’s “successors in interest” shall include those persons who can prove they have been damaged as a result of the actions of the attorney in fact or successor attorney in fact, such as a conservator of the principal or a personal representative of a deceased principal. If more than one person claims a recovery under this section the court shall determine the priority of their respective claims”

Section 404.717.6, RSMo [emphasis added]. “Conservator” and “personal representative” are straightforward. “Persons who can prove they have been damaged” is more general and vague.

When interpreting statutes, the doctrine of ejusdem generis is frequently employed in these circumstances. It is “the concept that specific enumeration is useful in determining the scope and extent of general words.” State v. Shelton, 363 S.W.3d 183, 184 (Mo. App. S.D. 2012). In other words, the general words “are construed to include only objects similar in nature to those enumerated specifically.” Four B. Corp. v. City of Harrisonville, 667 S.W.3d 169, 176 (Mo. App. W.D. 2023). “Thus a document referring to ‘horses, cattle, sheep and other animals’ will usually be construed as including goats, but not bears or tigers.” Standard Operations, Inc. v. Montague, 758 S.W.2d 442, 444 (Mo. 1988).

Based on these principles, it seems likely that the general language will one day be construed to mean only persons who possess similar legal authority to a conservator or personal representative.

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