Friday, June 12, 2015

Changes to the Texas Statutory Durable Power of Attorney Form

Effective January 1, 2014, Texas has adopted a new pre-approved form for its Statutory Durable Power of Attorney, a/k/a the power of attorney for your financial affairs. All forms must substantially comply with the new statute in order to remain effective.

Substantial compliance is always a tricky task. In order to avoid challenges that may be determined in a judge’s discretion, Texas residents should consider preparing a new statutory durable power of attorney that closely follows the specific statutory form now contained in Section 752.051 of the Texas Estates Code. We also recommend updating your estate and health care planning documents – including powers of attorney forms – whenever you have experienced a significant “life event,” such as the birth or adoption of a child, marriage, divorce, or the death of a relative or significant other.

Be sure to initial one or more of the options (marked A though N) on the new form; otherwise, you have not granted your agent any powers to act on your behalf. 

Additionally, if you want to be sure that you have granted your agent a “general power of attorney” – the ability to perform any and every type of legally permissible action in your place, as if he or she were you – you should include specific language to the effect that “this document shall be construed and interpreted as a general power of attorney and my agent (attorney-in-fact) shall have the power and authority to perform or undertake any action that I could perform or undertake as  if I were personally present.”

The former statutory durable power of attorney form (Section 490(a) of the now-replaced Texas Probate Code) contained this language; the new provision does not.

Because this financial power of attorney is a very powerful tool - and is also ripe for abuse by your agent under the wrong circumstances - we highly recommend that you consult with an attorney prior to signing this legal document, so that you are fully aware of the rights, responsibilities, and potential liabilities that can occur.

By: Cynthia W. Veidt,