New power of attorney law takes effect

Probate Judge T.R. Rowe

Probate Judge T.R. Rowe

A new power of attorney law has become effective as of October 1. People who want to plan ahead for the management of their financial affairs in the event they become incapacitated have greater assurance that their wishes will be carried out because of this new state law, according to Probate Judge T.R. Rowe.

Changes to the Connecticut Uniform Power of Attorney (POA) Act are designed to make powers of attorney easier to use. One important provision requires banks and other financial institutions to honor a POA document and grants new authority to the Probate Courts to compel these institutions to accept POAs. The act also better protects vulnerable individuals from POA abuses and financial exploitation by providing remedies through the Probate Courts, Rowe said.

“This is a significant change in the law, in fact the first substantive change in generations,” Rowe said. “For many years both clients and attorneys had voiced concerns about the limitations of the current statutory scheme, and the legislature has attempted to address those concerns with this legislation. We can expect some growing pains, but I am hopeful the new POA guidelines not only improve the accountability of the grantee, but also better implement the intentions of the grantor.”

Under the old law, many people were frustrated that they had planned ahead only to have a bank disregard the POA for various reasons, including that it was too old or executed on the

wrong form, said Probate Court Administrator Paul J. Knierim.

“By allowing people to seek redress in the Probate Courts, the new law helps families and individuals make their financial arrangements with more confidence,” he said.

The new law also gives the Probate Courts additional authority to resolve problems that may develop in the course of following a POA document.

“It permits family members and others concerned about the well-being of an individual to have the Probate Court review the conduct of the agent (the person charged with carrying out an individual’s wishes),” Knierim said. “If the court finds that the agent has acted improperly, the court can order the agent to reimburse the individual for any financial losses.”

The new law applies retroactively, meaning its safeguards extend to existing valid POA documents. More information about the Connecticut Uniform Power of Attorney, along with the forms, can be found at the Connecticut Bar Association’s website (www.ctbar.org/2016POA), and the Connecticut Network for Legal Aid’s website under “Elder Law” on Oct. 1, ctlawhelp.org. For questions related to substantive matters, competent professional advice should always be sought.

Connecticut’s previous law governing POAs was enacted 51 years ago. With the new law, the state joins 17 other states that have adopted the updated POA law. The Trumbull Probate District includes the towns of Easton, Monroe and Trumbull. There are 54 probate districts throughout the State of Connecticut.

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