Question About Power Of Attorney
Q: Hypothetically, let's say there is a person who has some psychological problems that make them vulnerable to being dominated or manipulated. They want to have something like a power of attorney. They want to have someone co-sign with them for major things -- major expenditures, transfers of important personal, real estate or intellectual property. They don't want other people to deal with their "agent," as the person would be called in a power of attorney arrangement, they just want deals not to be valid unless their co-signer has also signed and a certain process has been followed. Could that be covered by a specific power of attorney? Some other type of legal arrangement? Is there any way this power of attorney or other arrangement could be invalidated? For example, if the person didn't clearly inform others of the arrangement?
A: This is definitely something that the person involved should see a lawyer about. One way that I think will accomplish this is to put the person's major assets into a trust. I think a revocable trust would be better, but if the person is very weak-willed they might need to set up an irrevocable trust. The person would name him/herself as one trustee, and the co-signer as the other trustee. The terms of the trust would require both trustees to agree before the trust could spend anything. Details can vary, depending on the wants/needs of the trustor (the person setting up the trust). For example, you could set it up so they could spend up to $x without getting the other trustee's consent. (I *think* you could set up an assymetrical trust like that, where one trustee can spend money up to some limit, but the other can't -- but I'm not sure.) The trust should probably provide a weekly allowance, indexed for inflation or something, so he/she will have some spending cash without going through the two signatures bit. It would also probably be a good idea to create a separate Taxpayer ID (TIN) for the trust. Simple trusts are often set up without a separate TIN (my own, for example) because it makes tax reporting simpler. But in this case you might want the trust to have a separate TIN so if the trustor is persuaded to sign a bad deal and ducks out using the "blood from a turnip" defense, the resulting bad credit report will be attached to the trustor rather than to the trust. Then the trust *might* still be able to obtain credit. ALl these and other issues need to be discussed with a knowledgable estate-planning attorney. It might even be possible for the person to set up a "spendthrift trust" for him/herself. One *very important* point: the person would be giving the co-signer veto power over all major purchases. So it's very important to choose somebody he/she can really trust.
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