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Be careful with your power of attorney

Apr. 12, 2007 - 09:52AM   |   Last Updated: Apr. 12, 2007 - 09:52AM  |  

Listen up. Do you know where your power of attorney is?

Part of preparing for a deployment is going through the drills to make sure your will and all your insurance beneficiary information are up to date. But, among other things, you also need to decide whether to give someone a power of attorney to act on your behalf.

Be cautious with your power of attorney; it's not just a piece of paper. You need to know that you have complete trust in the person who will hold your power of attorney.

A general power of attorney allows that person to act in all matters on your behalf. That might include taking out a loan, arranging for a shipment of household goods or a whole host of other actions.

A specific power of attorney allows that person to act on your behalf in special transactions.

"Be very careful with a general power of attorney, because it is so powerful," said John Meixell, an attorney in the Army's legal assistance policy division.

Discuss your needs with an attorney, such as someone in your installation's legal assistance office.

"An attorney will help you understand the powers that can be given to your agent, the circumstances under which those powers can be used, and how long the powers of attorney are effective," said June Walbert, a certified financial planner practitioner with financial services company USAA. Discuss whether a power of attorney is right for you.

"Generally, a person, such as your [banker], is entitled to act on the instructions of your agent using the power of attorney until the person receives actual notice from you that you revoked the power of attorney," Walbert said.

"Upon your return, you may want to revisit the power of attorney to determine whether you still need it. Always review your legal documents when your circumstances change, such as marriage, divorce, deployment or redeployment."

Consider the length of time appropriate for the power of attorney. In the past, Meixell said, Army attorneys generally advised setting up the power of attorney to expire at the anticipated end of the deployment. They now advise setting the expiration date four to five months beyond the expected end date to avoid any problems that might be caused by deployment extensions.

Do you have power of attorney documents floating around from previous deployments that you may have forgotten about? Make sure you know where they are, and decide whether you want them to stay in effect or to destroy them.

In the wrong hands, they might come back to bite you. Just ask an Army major whose estranged wife used his power of attorney to take out a home equity loan after he returned from deployment.

He says he has some issues with USAA's procedures in allowing her to take out the loan, alleging the power of attorney was expired when she presented it. He did not know about the loan until USAA contacted him months later about a discrepancy.

USAA officials said they cannot comment on specifics regarding the major's case.

The power of attorney can be used whether you're deployed or not; its validity is tied only to the expiration date. To revoke or cancel a power of attorney before it expires, you should sign a "Revocation of Power of Attorney." Check with your legal assistance office. Give a copy to any person or business that may have been dealing with your agent or that could deal with that agent in the future.

Since your agent must have the original power of attorney for it to be accepted, get the original document from your agent.

Protect yourself.

Case lot sales on tap for May

It's time to take stock of what's in your pantry. The Defense Commissary Agency's case lot sales are coming to a commissary near you sometime in May.

The sales are held at various times during that month, with the selection of bargains varying, too. Find out more about your local store's sale at http://www.commissaries.com. Details were due to be posted starting the week of April 2.

As you browse the bargains, keep in mind the space you have at home for storing those items. If you think you'll be moving this summer, will you use the items before then? And don't forget to compare prices to ensure you're getting a great deal.

Happy hunting.

Got that? You're good to go.

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