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Powers of Attorney: Draft With Care and Use as Instructed

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APRIL 7, 2003 VOLUME 10, NUMBER 40

Recently two different state courts addressed the exercise of authority made pursuant to a durable financial power of attorney. These cases illustrate why care should be taken both in drafting a power of attorney and in choosing an agent.

In Florida, after David R. James II died, four children from his first marriage tried to evict their father’s widow from the home the couple had shared. Mr. James’ children argued that they could evict Rosalie James because David James, III, using his father’s power of attorney, had taken title to the home during Mr. James’ life.

The Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal upheld the lower court ruling in Rosalie James’ favor. The Appellate Court based its decision in part on Rosalie James’ argument that her husband’s power of attorney did not authorize gifts in excess of $10,000 per child — an amount far less than the value of the home. Robert James v. Rosalie Kaye Bruno James, March 7, 2003.

Meanwhile in North Dakota, Rodger and Paul Marquardt also ended up in court after their mother, Laura Marquardt, died. Rodger claimed that all proceeds from an annuity his mother had purchased should belong to him since his mother named him as beneficiary. However, the agent his mother named under her power of attorney, First Western Bank & Trust, had changed the annuity beneficiary prior to Mrs. Marquardt’s death.

Rodger argued that his mother’s power of attorney did not authorize her agent to change the beneficiary. The trial court agreed with Rodger about the power of attorney and that his mother’s will made clear that the annuity was his. While brother Paul appealed the ruling, he did not challenge the lower court’s decision about the power of attorney. First Western bank & Trust v. First Lutheran Church Foundation, Supreme Court of North Dakota, February 19, 2003.

Elder Law Issues periodically reminds its readers that powers of attorney are important, powerful and potentially dangerous instruments. Since 1998 in Arizona, agents under powers of attorney have been prohibited from taking any step for the benefit of anyone except the person who executes the power of attorney (the principal) unless the power is expressly listed and separately initialed by the principal and a witness. Powers of Attorney must be witnessed and notarized; the witness must be able to say that the principal acted freely and not under duress.

Arizona’s law reflects a growing concern about abuses tied to powers of attorney. Selection of an agent and the choice of powers to grant that agent both require careful consideration.

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Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

Famous people's wills

Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.