Tuesday, April 29, 2014

EPAs and conflicts of interest

With the aging population, conflicts of interest arising particularly in relation to the use of an enduring power of attorney (EPA) are becoming far more prevalent.

Previous posts have looked at cases like Stanford. Recently we had a client situation that underlined how critical it is to include a conflict of interest provision in an EPA. This style of provision is not standard in any government form and indeed many lawyers do not choose to include such a provision.

The situation the client faced was as follows:
  1. The main asset in the estate was a family home which was owned as joint tenants. 
  2. The husband lacked capacity due to advanced dementia, although was otherwise in good health. 
  3. Our client (the wife) wanted to include testamentary discretionary trusts under her will to provide for the children of the relationship. 
  4. The husband’s will was a very basic document and did not allow for testamentary discretionary trusts. 
  5. To ensure that half the value of the house would pass into an appropriate structure if the wife predeceased the husband she was wanting to rely on her appointment as the husband’s EPA to sever the joint tenancy (for a summary of the distinction between owning assets as joint tenants and tenants in common see http://mwbmcr.blogspot.com/2010/02/what-exactly-does-jointly-mean.html). 
  6. Due to an appropriately crafted conflict of interest clause in the EPA, the wife was able to quickly and easily implement the severance and avoid some of the more complex solutions that might also have been available such as the unilateral severance of the tenancy or applying for a court ordered will (the court ordered will process is featured in previous posts: http://mwbmcr.blogspot.com/2013/08/court-drafted-wills.html and http://mwbmcr.blogspot.com.ar/2013/09/using-court-drafted-wills-to-achieve.html). 
Until next week.

Image credit: Schnaars cc