Can a Pension Beneficiary Be Changed With a Power of Attorney?

By Kelly Mroz

A power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to grant someone else the right to act on your behalf. The person you authorize to act on your behalf is called your agent. State law regulates powers of attorney. While an agent can have the authority to change pension beneficiaries with a power of attorney, the exact language needed within the document varies by state.

General Authority

The idea of a power of attorney is that you can give someone else the authority to step into your shoes and legally act for you. The range of acts that can be handed off is extensive and includes allowing your agent to handle your bank accounts, manage your investments or operate your business. These types of actions are considered general powers and can be granted with a general statement included in the document that states your agent has the power to perform all acts you can do. Changing a pension beneficiary is typically not considered to be a general power.

Specific Authority

Some actions are considered to have a high risk of fraud or misuse. They are sometimes called "hot powers." These include giving gifts, changing beneficiary designations, creating or modifying a trust, or delegating authority granted under a power of attorney. Special language must appear in the document before an agent can take these actions. States often require specific authority before a power of attorney can grant the right to change a pension beneficiary.

Ready to appoint a power of attorney? Get Started Now

Variations

The language needed to convey the power to change a pension beneficiary varies by state. For example, the Uniform Power of Attorney Act, enacted in 13 states and U.S. Virgin Islands, requires that the power of attorney document specifically grant the ability to "create or change a beneficiary designation." The Act further says that even if you try to grant this power, your agent can't change the beneficiary to himself or his dependents unless he is your ancestor, spouse or descendant. Pennsylvania, on the other hand, requires only the more general language "to engage in retirement plan transactions" and places no restrictions on whom the agent can name as beneficiary.

Acceptance

Your agent can't actually get the pension beneficiary changed until the pension plan's administrator accepts his authority under the power of attorney to make the change. The company BP, for example, will accept a power of attorney for beneficiary changes as long as the power of attorney is in the form BP provides. The New York State and Local Retirement System accepts powers of attorney to change pension beneficiaries if the power is specifically granted, but also accepts the document without special language if the agent is the spouse, parent, child, grandchild or sibling of the pension owner. If the plan administrator refuses to make the beneficiary change, check with an attorney to find out what you can do. Some states provide an option for legal action if a plan administrator improperly refuses to honor a power of attorney document.

Ready to appoint a power of attorney? Get Started Now
Can a Power of Attorney Change Beneficiaries on Bank Accounts?
 

References

Related articles

Can You Change a Deed Anytime You Want to if You Have Power of Attorney?

When you sell real property, the sale is recorded by changing the deed to the property. For various reasons, a person may want to grant the power to sell the property to an agent under a power of attorney. State laws vary about the requirements for changing a deed and creating a valid power of attorney, but all states allow a power of attorney to be used to transfer real estate.

How to Amend a Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney allows a person, called the "principal," to designate an agent to legally act on his behalf in certain matters, even if the principal loses the ability to make decisions for himself. A power of attorney grant may be amended to expand an agent’s ability to act on behalf of the principal, to limit the agent’s influence, or to change agents entirely. Amending a durable power of attorney is subject to state law, and the standards can vary.

Laws for Power of Attorney in New Hampshire

New Hampshire financial power of attorney laws set forth the rules and limitations under which a person, known as the principal, may grant authority to another person, known as the agent, to act on their behalf. The agent acting for the principal can do whatever the principal has allowed her to do, as outlined in the power of attorney document. In New Hampshire, an agent may have broad authority that includes signing the principal's real estate deal papers and completing the principal's banking.

Power of Attorney

Related articles

How to Gain Access to Bank Accounts With a Power of Attorney

When you aren’t able to manage your bank accounts, a power of attorney can help. A power of attorney document lets you ...

Can I Change an IRA Owner With Power of Attorney?

If you have been named in a financial power of attorney document, you serve as the agent for the person who named you, ...

Can POA Supercede Spousal Rights?

A power of attorney, or POA, is a legal document you create to appoint a trusted individual to act for you, generally ...

Can I Give Someone a Power of Attorney to Cash My SS Check?

Generally, you can draft a power of attorney under your state's laws to appoint a third party, or agent, to handle your ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED