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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
Appropriate relief in a case depends entirely on the specific factual situation.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. I welcome inquiries from clients and referring attorneys throughout the State of Minnesota.
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