If I Have Power of Attorney, Can I Deed a House Over to My Name?

By Teo Spengler

Power corrupts and absolute power can corrupt absolutely. A general power of attorney gives the agent the ability to do virtually anything with the finances of the principal. Although self-dealing is strictly forbidden in this fiduciary relationship, more than a few agents have used their authority to transfer assets to themselves. The law imposes civil and criminal penalties for such conduct.

Power of Attorney: A Fiduciary Relationship

A power of attorney allows a person to control her own fate if she should become incapacitated. In this legal document, she appoints a trusted individual to step in to run her affairs when she is no longer capable. That person owes her the highest standard of conduct described under the law: a fiduciary duty. Fiduciaries must always act in the best interests of their principals and avoid even the appearance of self-dealing.

Penalties for Abuse

Self-dealing under a power of attorney is a clear violation of the fiduciary relationship. Many POA forms allow the principal to state whether self-gifting is permitted, but transferring major assets, such as a house, to your own account can be treated as felony theft under state laws. Since most principals are elderly, abuse is not always reported, and efforts are under way in many states to tighten protections.

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Can a Power of Attorney Give Away a Life Estate?
 

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Risks of a Financial Power of Attorney

Giving someone power of attorney over your financial affairs can be frightening, especially if the reason you need the power of attorney is because you have been incapacitated in some way. Having unsupervised access to money can bring out the worst instincts in some people, but if you choose your agent carefully, having a trusted individual to act as an agent on your behalf can be a huge help.

Can You Sell a Home With a Power of Attorney?

Depending on state laws, powers of attorney can give an agent broad powers over someone’s finances and property. With a power of attorney, the person who gives the power – called a principal – can customize the power he gives his agent. Both limited and general powers of attorney give an agent authority to sell the principal’s home.

Power of Attorney Obligations

A person who creates a power of attorney, known as the principal, typically appoints someone she fully and completely trusts to act as her agent, or attorney-in-fact. The authority granted under a power of attorney often allows the agent to perform actions that, absent a power of attorney, only the principal herself can perform. Therefore, the agent has a fiduciary responsibility to act for the benefit of and in the best interest of the principal.

Power of Attorney

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