A Power of Attorney is a very important and useful tool. It is often used in elder care so that the named agent can manage the finances of the principal. While the agent under a power of attorney can do many things, some things are prohibited. For example, an agent under a power of attorney cannot make a will for the principal. Can the agent make a trust?
Under Pennsylvania law, PEF Code Section 5603 an agent’s powers are limited as follows: “(b) Power to create a trust.–A power “to create a trust for my benefit” shall mean that the agent may execute a deed of trust, designating one or more persons (including the agent) as original or successor trustees and transfer to the trust any or all property owned by the principal as the agent may decide, subject to the following conditions: (1) The income and corpus of the trust shall either be distributable to the principal or to the guardian of his estate, or be applied for the principal’s benefit, and upon the principal’s death, any remaining balance of corpus and unexpended income of the trust shall be distributed to the deceased principal’s estate. (2) The deed of trust may be amended or revoked at any time and from time to time, in whole or in part, by the principal or the agent, provided that any such amendment by the agent shall not include any provision which could not be included in the original deed. (c) Power to make additions to an existing trust.–A power “to make additions to an existing trust for my benefit” shall mean that the agent, at any time or times, may add any or all of the property owned by the principal to any trust in existence when the power was created, provided that the terms of such trust relating to the disposition of the income and corpus during the lifetime of the principal are the same as those set forth in subsection (b). The agent and the trust and its beneficiaries shall be answerable as equity and justice may require to the extent that an addition to a trust is inconsistent with prudent estate planning or financial management for the principal or with the known or probable intent of the principal with respect to disposition of his estate.”
There is more and more litigation over the scope of the power that may be exercised by an agent under a power of attorney. Disputes arise over gifts, joint ownership and changes of beneficiary. Where trusts are concerned, though, the law is pretty clear.