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Enforcement of California Powers of Attorney (CA Probate Code section 4406)

A while back, I put a video out on my Youtube channel describing what a Power of Attorney (POA) is and what it can do for you. Here it is, in case you missed it. I also posted previously on this blog about what happens to a Power of Attorney in California when you get divorced and your spouse is your POA agent. In this post, I’m going to go over what happens when a POA that has been properly signed is, nonetheless, not recognized. For sake of illustration, let’s say that your elderly mother has signed a POA naming you as her agent. Your mom wants you to manage her money (e.g. pay her bills) and to do that, you need to access her bank accounts, but your mom’s bank is refusing to cooperate with you. What do you do? The California statute that applies here is Section 4406 of the California Probate Code. One important thing to recognize first, though, is that 4406 only applies to what are called “Uniform Statutory Powers of Attorney”. What this basically means is that 4406 doesn’t apply to any random POA that gets written up, even if it’s written up properly. 4406 only applies to the specific POA that is explicitly specified in the California Probate Code (specifically, section 4401). If you have a Uniform Statutory Power of Attorney in California and it’s been properly signed by the principal (see CA Probate Code section 4121) and a third-party (e.g. a bank, like in this hypothetical) is refusing to honor it, 4406 provides for the following: The agent can sue the third-party...
California Divorce and Powers of Attorney

California Divorce and Powers of Attorney

I had a post before about what happens in California to your will after you get divorced. Many people have their spouses named in their will in some way (e.g. to be executor). In nearly all cases, I would imagine you don’t want your ex-spouse to have control over your estate when you’ve died. Today, though, I’m going to go over a similar question: what happens in California to your Power of Attorney or Durable Power of Attorney document after you’ve gotten divorced? As with wills, many people name their spouses as their power of attorney agent or durable power of attorney agent and, as with divorces, most people likely don’t want their ex-spouses having control over them once the divorce is finally over. The relevant law here is going to be Section 4154 of the California Probate Code, section (a) of which states: “If after executing a power of attorney the principal’s marriage to the attorney-in-fact is dissolved or annulled, the principal’s designation of the former spouse as attorney-in-fact is revoked.” Section 4154(b) then goes on to say that if divorce or annulment of the marriage was the only reason why the power of attorney was revoked, then remarriage of the principal and attorney-in-fact will reinstate the power of attorney and the attorney-in-fact’s authority under it. If, however, the power of attorney was revoked for other reasons too and the principal and attorney-in-fact just happened to get divorced at the same time, then them remarrying does not reinstate the power of attorney and the attorney-in-fact’s authority. If you compare what happens to a will under section 6122 of...
California Divorce and Wills

California Divorce and Wills

After you get divorced, a lot of things happen automatically under California law. Many of these things have to do with estate planning. In this post, I’m going to go over how a divorce affects how California treats wills that either spouse has made. In previous posts, I’ve gone over how to make a will in California, how to disinherit your children in your California will, and how to omit your spouse in your California will. If you haven’t seen those posts, I encourage you to go take a look. The relevant law here for how a divorce affects a will is going to be in section 6122 of the California Probate Code. A very similar statute (Section 6122.1 of the California Probate Code) applies to domestic partnerships also. Under section 6122(a), the following happens automatically upon a divorce unless a will executed after the divorce provides otherwise: Disposition of property to the former spouse is revoked;Special and general powers of appointment conferred upon the former spouse are also revoked;Provisions specifying the former spouse as conservator, guardian, trustee, or executor are also revoked. In the event of a divorce, section 6122 treats the former spouse as if they had already died. In the event these spouses get remarried, however, section 6122(b) automatically reinstates/revives these same provisions of the deceased spouse’s will. As always, this post is not meant to be a comprehensive explanation of how a divorce might affect your will or the will in the particular situation you are dealing with. If you are outside of California or your situation doesn’t involve California at all, likely none of...

New York Small Estate Affidavit Procedure

Every so often, I get questions in California about how to do a probate for someone who died but left very little or no assets. It got so frequent at one point that I made a video about it for my Youtube channel on the California process. The idea of a summary — or quick — probate process for someone who left little or no assets is not unique to California. This post discusses the Small Estate Affidavit Process for New York. As an initial matter, though, I have to clarify that I do not take cases in New York because — while I have been licensed to practice law there since 2012 — New York also requires under New York Judiciary Law section 470 that lawyers maintain a physical office within the state of New York too. I don’t so I don’t take clients or cases there. I do, however, know plenty of lawyers all throughout New York so if I can make a referral to help you solve your problem or move your case forward, feel free to get in touch. Because I don’t have an office in New York state, I have never done the NY Small Estate Affidavit Process myself so I have no first-hand experience to operate from. All of the below is simply due to my, ahem, excellent legal research skills. Anyway, that said, the applicable law for the New York Small Estate Affidavit Process is New York Surrogate’s Court Procedures Act (NYSCPA) Section 1301 and onward. (That’s Article 13, in case you need an Article). The basic idea for the New York...

California Will Drafting – Disinheriting Your Children

Last time, I posted about how to omit, disinherit, or otherwise leave your spouse out of your will. The rule there was that under California Probate Code Section 21610, you can’t disinherit your spouse by simply not mentioning them in your will. California will assume that such an omission was accidental and give your spouse an intestate share anyway. This time, we’re going to talk about disinheriting your children. The rule is very similar to disinheriting your spouse, except this time, we’re talking about California Probate Code section 21620, simply not mentioning your children in your will is not enough to disinherit them. Unless you can prove one of the section 21621 exceptions apply, California will assume you didn’t mention your child by accident and then give them a share equal to what they would have gotten under intestacy. One reason for this is that California recognizes that while people should update their estate planning documents after life-changing events (e.g. getting married, having kids, etc), not everyone does that so every will and trust will always be out-of-date and can’t be read literally. As with omitting your spouse, there are a few ways in which you can actually leave your children out of your will completely. Those ways are enumerated in Section 21621 of the California Probate Code. You left your child out of your will intentionally and that intention is apparent from the will in some way, You left property to the parent of the child instead of leaving the property to the child directly, or You provide for the child in some other way outside of your...

California Will Drafting – Omitting Your Spouse

Previously, I made a post about how to make a will under California law. I also have a video on my Youtube channel about it. One issue that pops up a lot when drafting a will is how to — basically — disinherit someone. This might be done out of spite or might be done intentionally because, for instance, the spouse is independently wealthy or the person making the will has provided for their spouse in some other way already. The problem that arises is that many people who are writing their will think they can disinherit their spouse by simply leaving them out of the will. In other words, by not mentioning their spouse in the will, their spouse will be disinherited. This isn’t the case at all in California and it’s because of California Probate Code section 21610 which provides that the assumption is that omitting your spouse from your will was accidental and that, unless proven otherwise, your spouse will get: Half of the decedent’s community property, Half of the decedent’s quasi-community property, and A share of the decedent’s separate property equal to what the spouse would have received under California’s intestate succession scheme if the decedent had died without a will. This share, however, will be capped at half of the decedent’s separate property. If you do indeed want to leave your spouse nothing for any reason, you should look at section 21611 of the California Probate Code which basically says that the section 21610 presumption will not apply if: The spouse was omitted from the will intentionally and this intention is apparent in the...