I recently broke up with my girlfriend of 3 years. We had executed wills and other estate planning documents when we had first moved in together, including durable powers of attorney for each other. When I left the apartment I shredded all of my documents and told her to do the same. However, this morning I discovered that my bank account had been emptied. When I called the bank to find out what happened I was told she had used the power of attorney to remove these monies. She claims it was for the cost of the home we own together, in which she now lives with her new girlfriend. Is this right? Can she do this? What are my rights?
-Penniless and Powerless
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It’s hard to know where to begin. This is a cautionary tale for all of us about giving out durable Powers of Attorney (POA). Durable means permanent, enduring… always. You get me? There are other POAs such as a springing POA you can execute which goes into effect only if certain specific events happen, i.e. you are incapacitated, etc. A POA can be an important and useful legal tool for those of us in same sex relationships who do not have the rights married couples do to handle our financial matters for our family or each other. However, you really need to think through the consequences of legal documents before and after you execute them.
Technically you should have put your revocation in writing, but at the same time, your ex-girlfriend was notified of your desire to end this power.
There is, of course, also the potential claim she has regarding your obligations to maintain and cover the cost of real property you own with her jointly. This does not trump, however, her fiduciary duties to you to act only in your best interests as your POA. You said you had executed legal documents. Hopefully you have a domestic partnership agreement that addresses how and what happens in this situation. You may need to go in to Court to ask for emergency intervention. You should also send a written revocation to her, and to all of your financial institutions.
I hope this is helpful and best of luck.
*This column is not a consultation with an attorney and should in no way be construed as such or as a substitute for such consultation. Anyone with legal issues or concerns should seek the advice of her own attorney.
© 2012 GO NYC MEDIA LLC. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission. See original here.