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A recent North Carolina Court of Appeals decision affirmed the Superior Court verdict that an agent under a power of attorney did not breach his fiduciary duty to his aunt, Doris King or unjustly enrich himself at her expense. Albert v. Cowart, et al.
Even though the defendants prevailed in this case, proper advance planning by Mr. and Mrs. King would most likely have avoided the lawsuit. The use of powers of attorneys and perhaps trusts executed well in advance of incapacity, with a lawyer's counsel, does not completely avoid the possibility of litigation, but certainly reduces it considerably.
It appears that the lawyer that prepared a power of attorney for Mrs. King did so without first consulting with her. This goes against North Carolina State Bar rules, which require that an attorney must first communicate with a person before preparing legal documents for that person to sign. This helps ensure that the person signing the documents has capacity to sign the documents and is doing so willingly.
Herman-Giddens, JD, LLM, TEP, CFP, Attorney at Law (NC, FL, TN),
Board Certified Specialist in Estate Planning and Probate Law (NC). North
Carolina Registered Guardian, Solicitor, England and Wales. Follow
his blog, North Carolina Estate
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