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Bill to strengthen Michigan's Power of Attorney law advances in Lansing

Posted at 9:32 AM, Jun 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-22 09:32:31-04

(WXYZ) — If you’re put under guardianship or conservatorship by a probate court, you lose the ability to make your own decisions about your finances or even your healthcare.

Now there’s a new effort to make it easier to avoid losing your rights to someone you don’t even know.

A Power Of Attorney gives you the ability to choose someone to make legal and financial decisions for you if you become unable to do that.

There’s a proposed law that just passed out of committee in Lansing Wednesday that will make some important changes to the Power Of Attorney laws. Experts say these changes will allow you to keep your loved ones away from predatory probate practices.

Chandra Drayton knows all too well the pain that can come from losing your loved one to a court-appointed guardian. Chandra had an out-of-state Power Of Attorney for her mother, Ernestine. Drayton says while she was trying to figure out how to get more oversight over her mom’s affairs in Michigan, a professional guardian took over and cut Chandra and her sister out of the decision-making for their mom.

“I'm pleading to the state of Michigan, to the powers that be-- please make these changes immediately. Save these lives. Because my mom-- her life wasn't saved,” said Drayton.

That’s why Drayton is relieved that proposed changes to strengthen Michigan’s Power Of Attorney Law just got passed by the state’s House Judiciary Committee Wednesday.

Experts say the proposed Uniform Power of Attorney Act can help families avoid having to get guardianship or conservatorship over their loved one and their finances.

“We view that this is kind of the key basic part to reforming that system is having a robust power of attorney statute here in Michigan,” said Christopher W. Smith, a probate lawyer with Chalgian & Tripp. Smith also is a member of the Attorney General’s Elder Abuse Task Force that has worked for years to reform our laws.

Smith says the changes will streamline Power Of Attorney documents which will make it more likely that financial institutions will have to accept them.

Smith says often banks will say you have to go to court to get a conservatorship over your loved one when you don’t actually need to take that extreme step.

“If we finally have a process in place that says, ‘listen you have to do A, B, or C before you reject this Power Of Attorney and if you don’t do that, then we can go to court,’ and we can say – ‘hey you’ve got to enforce this power of attorney,’” said Smith.

Smith says the new legislation would require a financial institution to pay your attorney fees if you do have to take them to court to force them to accept the Power of Attorney. He also says by making a uniform boilerplate Power Of Attorney form it will eliminate the guesswork in creating the Power Of Attorney, especially for people who can’t afford to hire an attorney.

“You've got to have your ducks in a row,” said Drayton. “Without it, you'll be lost, your loved one will be lost in a system somewhere.”

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