On November 7, 2023, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed into law Michigan’s House Bill 4644, which enacts the Uniform Power of Attorney Act (UPOAA). This legislation will be effective on July 1, 2024, and is intended to:
- Make power of attorney (POA) documents more accessible to Michigan residents in the hope of decreasing the number of guardianships and conservatorships that need to be appointed by the probate court.
- Make POA documents more widely accepted by financial institutions in Michigan and potentially in other states with a uniform POA law.
- Provide mandates for agents acting under a POA document.
The new law does not invalidate any existing POA documents that you have created, but it is unclear what, if any, effect this new law will have for people using existing documents. A possible side effect of the UPOAA is that it gives banks and financial institutions the ability to require a person acting under the POA to present verification or other documentation, including an opinion letter from an attorney if they have questions about the validity of the document or any matter of law concerning the POA.
Because of the current uncertainty, we suggest these POA best practices to be prepared:
- Look at your current POA documents and verify that the agents you have selected are still willing and able to serve. Update these as needed.
- Provide copies of your POA documents to the agents named in the documents.
- Provide copies of your relevant POA documents to any institution that would need to rely on these, such as banks and other financial institutions where you maintain accounts. This includes providing POAs that are not effective until a certain circumstance occurs.
- Verify with your banks and financial institutions that they will accept these POA documents if they are needed. If not, determine your options and reach out to your Warner attorney.
The UPOAA also includes a generic, statutory form that can be adapted for use in certain instances when a POA is needed. However, this form DOES NOT authorize someone to make health care decisions for you – you still need a patient advocate designation. And it DOES NOT authorize anyone to exercise powers you have as a parent or guardian regarding the care, custody or property of a minor child or ward, such as you might need if you were leaving children in the custody of family while you are traveling. This would require a specific POA or other documents.
The statutory POA form has many choices for the types of general and specific authority you are giving to your agent, and the form language recommends that you consult with your attorney before using the form. We also recommend this consultation as every choice made on the form may have unintended consequences, may interfere with your current estate planning and may have a significant effect on your ability to do future Medicaid planning to protect assets for your spouse.
We will provide more updates as we receive further clarity over the next few months regarding the impact of this law. It is certainly possible that, in time, banks and other organizations could create their own versions of the statutory form and require you to use these for the accounts you have with them.
If you have questions regarding POA documents or the new law, contact your Warner attorney or contact Catherine Jacobs at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 616.752.2391.