Power of Attorney Litigation in Minnesota

Powers of Attorney Folder and Gavel

If an agent or attorney-in-fact under a power of attorney wrongfully obtains the document, abuses the authority granted, or violates the terms of the power of attorney, the principal or another interested person authorized can file a petition in probate court to remedy the wrongs.  However, pursuing power of attorney litigation in Minnesota presents a considerable challenge that requires assistance from an experienced probate litigation attorney.

Minnesota Power of Attorney Statutes

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document in which the principal (person creating the document) gives the agent (also referred to as the attorney-in-fact) authority to act on the principal’s behalf.  There are two general types of powers of attorney:  a financial power of attorney and a health care power of attorney.  Minnesota statutes govern both types of POAs.

A health care power of attorney falls under Minnesota law provisions relating to health care directives.  A different statute applies to financial powers of attorney, which most often are the type of POA involved in power of attorney litigation.

A financial power of attorney grants the agent authority to conduct the financial affairs of the principal, including managing finances and making disbursements.  A durable financial power of attorney, which remains in effect after the principal’s incapacity, is a common tool in estate planning.

Minnesota law imposes specific fiduciary duties and legal responsibilities on an agent under a power of attorney.  An agent may breach those duties in a number of different ways, including:

  • Using undue influence in obtaining or exercising the power of attorney
  • Committing financial fraud or exploitation (these situations often involve elders)
  • Using the principal’s funds for the agent’s own purposes or engaging in impermissible transactions that benefit the agent (financial self-dealing)
  • Failing to act in the principal’s best interests

Unfortunately, many situations involving improper use of a power attorney involve family members or others whom the principal trusted to act on his or her behalf.  That fact complicates power of attorney litigation considerably.

Who Can File Power of Attorney Litigation in Minnesota?

Under state law, interested persons may file a petition regarding actions under taken a power of attorney or challenging the power of attorney itself.  The statute defines interested persons to include:

  • The principal who created the power of attorney
  • A nominated or appointed guardian or conservator
  • The principal’s legal representative or attorney
  • The spouse, parent, adult child or sibling, or if no such person is living or can be located, the next of kin of the principal
  • An adult who has lived with the principal for more than six months
  • Certain governmental agencies
  • A representative of a state ombudsman’s office or federal protection and advocacy program
  • A duly appointed health care agent of proxy
  • Any other person designated by the court

Whether a person has the legal authority (standing) to challenge a power of attorney or actions under the power sometimes is an issue in a power of attorney case.

How Can the Court Address Issues With a Power of Attorney?

In addressing improprieties relating to a power of attorney, Minnesota courts have broad authority to order relief.  Depending on the circumstances, the court order may include:

  • Ordering the agent to submit an accounting for all transactions relating to the power of attorney
  • Removing the agent or revoking the power of attorney
  • Requiring repayment of assets wrongfully taken by the agent
  • Appointment of a new agent or conservator for the principal
  • Requiring the agent to pay the principal’s or interested person’s attorney’s fees and costs

Appropriate relief in a case depends entirely on the specific factual situation.

Proving Improprieties in Power of Attorney Litigation

A written power of attorney properly executed by the principal is presumptively valid.  As such, the burden is on the person filing the petition to demonstrate invalidity of the power of attorney or the impropriety of actions taken pursuant to the POA.

In some cases, the evidence relates to whether the principal is incapacitated now, was incapacitated when he or she signed the POA, or was subjected to undue influence in creating the POA.  Evidence also may relate to specific actions taken by the agent and facts demonstrating the improper nature of those actions and transactions.Succeeding in power of attorney litigation requires substantial investigation and compilation of evidence.  Assistance from an experienced Minnesota probate litigation attorney is essential during the investigation and evidence-gathering stage, as well as in filing the petition and presenting the case to the court.

The type of evidence needed in power of attorney litigation depends entirely on the nature of the irregularities and violations of the agent’s duties that occurred.  A knowledgeable attorney will ascertain what evidence is necessary to prove the case, and then proceed to collect and document the evidence, even before filing the petition. 

Talk With an Attorney Experienced in Power of Attorney Litigation in Minnesota

My practice at the Dave Burns Law Office includes years of experience as a probate court litigation attorney. From the early investigatory and analytical stages of potential power of attorney litigation to proving the case through evidence in the court hearing, I ensure that clients understand of the complex litigation process, so they can make informed decisions when necessary.

In my probate and estate litigation practice, I work with family members and others concerned about the welfare of their loved ones.  I concentrate my practice on the Twin Cities metro area and am available to meet with clients in both Minneapolis and St. Paul.

If you would like to discuss a situation involving a matter that may involve improprieties relating to a power of attorney, please contact me at (612) 677-8351 or by email at dave@daveburnslaw.com.  I welcome inquiries from clients and referring attorneys throughout the State of Minnesota.

Categories: Litigation, Probate

The Dave Burns Law Office hopes you find this article helpful. But please do not rely on it as legal advice. The law changes regularly and the outcome of any legal matter depends on its unique circumstances. View full disclaimer