Question: I have Durable Power of Attorney for my mother who is in a nursing home. Does this obligate me for her debts?
Powers of attorney can be complicated and depend on the language drafted in the power of attorney originally. You may want to have an attorney review the document as he or she will be able to discuss any personal financial obligations that may arise, including what actions may not constitute "good faith."
The following is general legal information that may assist you with finding some resources to better clarify powers of attorney:
You may want to review the Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) on durable powers of attorney to gather additional information. A.R.S. § 14-5503 states:
A. If, following execution of a durable power of attorney, a court of the principal's domicile appoints any conservator or other fiduciary charged with the management of all of the principal's property or all of the principal's property except for specified exclusions, the agent is accountable to the court appointed fiduciary as well as to the principal. The court appointed fiduciary has the same power to revoke or amend the power of attorney that the principal would have if the principal were not disabled or incapacitated.
B. A principal may nominate, by a durable power of attorney, the conservator or the guardian of the principal for consideration by the court if protective proceedings for the principal or estate are commenced.
You did not state whether you are also a conservator. According to A.R.S. § 14-5501, the person who is given the power of attorney is the agent for the principal (the person who created the power of attorney). However, according to A.R.S. § 14-5501(D) "from and after August 1, 1998, except as provided in section 28-370, an adult, known as the principal, may designate another adult, known as the agent, to make financial decisions on the principal's behalf by executing a written power of attorney" if it satisfies all of the requirements stated in the statute. You may also want to note A.R.S. § 46-456, which discusses duties to an incapacitated or vulnerable adult and civil and criminal penalties.
March 25, 2009