Creating a power of attorney to avoid legal battles


When blues legend B.B. King died last week he left behind a legacy of music that has influenced countless musicians in California and around the world. Unfortunately, he also left behind a brewing fight between his children and his business manager over the management of his assets.

Just a week before his death, three of King's children appeared in court alleging that King's longtime manager was stealing money from King and failing to provide adequate medical care. King had previously given the manager power of attorney to handle his financial affairs.

The judge dismissed the children's allegations, saying two recent investigations found no evidence King was a victim of elder abuse. The judge also ruled there was no reason to terminate the power of attorney granted to King's manager. The court noted that although King had some serious health issues, there was no evidence he lacked mental capacity, and he was represented by an attorney. The children have said the battle is not over, and now that King has died a fight over management of his estate appears likely.

An individual in California can use a power of attorney to appoint a trusted person to manage their affairs by naming that person as their attorney-in-fact. With a durable power of attorney, the attorney-in-fact's authority can continue even after the principal - the person granting the authority - has become incapacitated. It is very important to make this decision very carefully and even discuss it with family members so everyone is aware of why the decision was made.

The authority granted in a power of attorney is broad, and there is always danger that a dishonest attorney-in-fact will abuse the authority. But a court will have to see actual evidence of abuse before terminating a power of attorney. Otherwise, as in King's case, the court will respect the decision made by the principal in making the appointment.

Source: ABCNews.com, "B.B. King's Family Loses Bid for Control of His Affairs," Ken Ritter, May 8, 2015

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