Can You Ask for Copies of Power of Attorney Through the Courts?

By Teo Spengler

Despite what you may have seen in Perry Mason reruns, astonishing court revelations are not the norm. The modern American court system favors open disclosure, and evidence exchange before trial is encouraged to avoid surprises. Arguably, all documents relevant to a legal dispute must be produced and exchanged with the other side, if requested, and powers of attorney are no exception. On the other hand, courts will not indulge curious relatives by allowing them to see private documents unless the matter relates somehow to issues in dispute.

Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document. The person making the power of attorney, called the principal, uses the document to name an agent to act for her in specified circumstances. Most powers of attorney call for the agent to make decisions in either financial or health care matters. The document can limit the agent's authority to one sole transaction (like the sale of a vehicle) or time period (like while you vacation abroad); alternatively, it can create an enduring agency that continues even if the principal becomes incapacitated.

Private Documents

In some states, you must sign a power of attorney in the presence of a notary while others require witnesses. But the document itself remains essentially private, with originals kept by the principal and agent. It is not filed with the court but shown to persons or businesses who need proof that the agent has legal authority to act for the principal. Since it need not be filed, a power of attorney will not be found in court files unless it has been requested as part of a legal dispute. On the other hand, you might find powers of attorney in the recorder's office. Some states, like Ohio, require that powers of attorney relating to the conveyance of an interest in real property be recorded and others, like North Carolina, require that durable powers of attorney be recorded in certain circumstances.

Ready to appoint a power of attorney? Get Started Now

Requested in Discovery

The legal term discovery describes both the process of information exchange in a lawsuit and the information that is exchanged. Parties to a lawsuit have various discovery methods available to seek information from the other party, including depositions (recorded face-to-face interviews), interrogatories (written questions that must be answered under oath), requests for admissions (lists of facts that the other party must admit or deny) and requests for production (documents the other party must copy and produce). A party conducting discovery may ask oral or written questions about a power of attorney and also request its production if it is relevant to an issue in the action.

Relevance in Legal Actions

If a power of attorney is relevant to a lawsuit, a party may obtain a copy or even demand to see the original during discovery. If it is irrelevant to any contested issues, the court will not require that it be produced. The relevance of the document is immediately clear in any legal action between the principal and agent regarding transactions made under the power of attorney. Likewise, the court will order production if an action by the agent is challenged as abusive or beyond his authority by a third party.

Ready to appoint a power of attorney? Get Started Now
Is It Legal to Request a Parent's Phone Records in a Custody Battle?
 

References

Resources

Related articles

Is a Written Last Will & Testament a Legal Document?

A written last will and testament is a legal document, and will be accepted by a probate court as long as it meets all the requirements for a valid last will and testament in the state where the court sits. You may write your own will, or you may have a lawyer draft one for you.

What Happens After You Sign & Notarize Your Divorce Documents?

Each state has unique laws regarding divorce and family law matters, so the actual process of preparing and filing divorce documents is determined by state civil procedure laws and local court rules. The term "divorce documents" may include the petition or complaint for divorce, motions for support and custody, stipulated property divisions, and final settlements and decrees. In general, divorce documents are commonly referred to as “pleadings” or “court filings."

If a Party to a Divorce in California Violates a Court Order: Can They Be Held Accountable?

California courts, like the courts in all states, have the power to issue orders to the parties in a lawsuit, including parties to a divorce. Willful violation of a court order is an offense known as “contempt of court.” California courts may issue various orders with respect to a divorce proceeding, including orders compelling all parties to comply with the court’s previous directives.

Related articles

Are Recorded Conversations Legal in Divorce Court?

"He said, she said" can typify arguments between embattled spouses, where each accuses the other of communications the ...

What Happens if We Lost the Power of Attorney Papers?

A Power of Attorney is a powerful document that gives a person authority over another person's assets or even health ...

What Is a Patent File Wrapper?

A patent is a grant made by the United States Patent and Trademark Office that gives inventors and creators exclusive ...

How to Contest a Power of Attorney

A power of attorney allows an agent to perform legal acts, such as consenting to medical treatment or selling property, ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED