If you used an online power of attorney, beware!
In Pennsylvania recently, there was a court case that reminds us that folks who are trying to save money by using an online form instead of hiring an attorney, are potentially in for a future disaster.
Mercedes Goosley owned a home in Pennsylvania. In 2013, she named one of her six children, Joseph, as her agent under a power of attorney (“POA”) using a boilerplate form that Joseph downloaded from the internet. Unbeknownst to Joseph, the power of attorney required his Mom, Mercedes to be declared incompetent for Joseph to act as her agent.
That particular POA create a hurdle in order for the agent to use the document, proof of incapacity was listed as a requirement prior to its use! A doctor was needed to prove the incapacity.
In the Pennsylvania case, Joseph began acting for his mother without getting the doctor’s note.
She was moved into a nursing home and her son listed the home for sale and the inevitable sibling rivalry ensued. Of course, Joseph had a brother who was living with his mother and refused to move out of the home. Years of court battles later, the Appellate Judge ruled in favor of Joseph, but only after great harm and a huge lawyer’s fee was accumulated.
As an attorney, I make sure that these mistakes do not occur. An online form is just a piece of paper, and if any mistakes are made, the family will feel it for years to come. Take a look at my post regarding POAs and the top 10 reasons you need an attorney to prepare one! Powers of Attorney
To read the court’s decision in the case Stecker, et al v. v. Goosley, et al (Pa. Super. Ct., No. 1266 EDA 2020, April 15, 2021), click here.