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Consumer Watch: How to grant power of attorney

Lenders need not accept POA, but most do

Aug. 12, 2010 - 02:52PM   |   Last Updated: Aug. 12, 2010 - 02:52PM  |  
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Army Pvt. Rebecca Fourquet found a car online while deployed to Iraq.

She wanted to buy the car as soon as possible, she said, because she thought it would sell before she returned home in July. So she consulted with attorneys in her unit and had a power of attorney drawn up to allow her father to buy the car for her. In the meantime, she applied for a loan through the CarMax dealer and was approved by Wells Fargo Bank.

But she says that when her father went to the CarMax dealership in Maryland where the car was located, he was told that Wells Fargo wouldn't accept the power of attorney, so CarMax couldn't either.

"CarMax wanted to help ... but Wells Fargo, however, did not," Fourquet says.

Wells Fargo officials are trying to sort out what happened. "We do not have a policy that prohibits a power of attorney, military or otherwise," says Caren Roberson, spokeswoman for Wells Fargo Dealer Services. Company officials are communicating that to the CarMax dealer, she added.

Roberson did note that for Wells Fargo, it's rare for a power of attorney to be used in buying a car.

In this case, there was no policy on the part of the lender to reject a power of attorney — but there is no law that requires anyone to accept a power of attorney, either. Federal law does say military powers of attorney are valid in all states.

"But if the bank or business says they don't do business by power of attorney, that's all you can do," says Air Force Reserve Col. John Odom, a Louisiana attorney and expert on the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

Odom advises service members to contact the bank or other business beforehand to ask about any caveats or special language required in a power of attorney.

Pentagon Federal Credit Union, for example, accepts authentic power of attorney documents and does not require that they follow a particular form or use specified language unless provided for by law, spokesman Steve Troxel says. But, he says, "We do reserve the right to reject a POA."

Here's what Pentagon Federal requires:

• The power of attorney must be signed by the grantor (person granting the power), in front of a notary public.

• The power of attorney must indicate that the grantor will not hold the accepting institution responsible for any acts that occur as a result of its acceptance of the power of attorney. Pentagon Federal can provide language to accomplish this in the power of attorney, if needed.

• It should be clear that the transaction being requested is authorized by the power of attorney.

Odom says troops should think carefully about powers of attorney. With a general power of attorney, you're authorizing someone to act on your behalf in your absence.

A special power of attorney is for a limited purpose. Fourquet had her military legal office draw up a special power of attorney just for the purchase of that car. Special powers of attorney also can be used for medical purposes, to authorize appropriate medical care for someone, such as a child, in a service member's absence.

The problem with a general power of attorney, Odom says, is that it could be misused. He notes that some service members who went to the war zones debt-free came back to find their spouses had taken out loans and credit cards using their general powers of attorney, running up debt.

If a general power of attorney is somehow stolen, that could be a problem, too.

"We really talk to the young troops about it carefully," Odom says. "What do they want to do? "Someone in Afghanistan can get a power of attorney executed in two days and e-mailed.

"My preference is for troops to limit the scope of a power of attorney to that which is really needed," he says. "We don't want them to have a surprise when they come home."

Moving delays?

If you've had problems getting your household goods delivered on time, you might be eligible to file an "inconvenience claim" with your moving company.

Your shipping documents include a "required delivery date." That doesn't mean your stuff must be delivered to your house by that date. Rather, it's the date that your transportation company must have your household goods delivered to the local agent and available for delivery to your new home.

Surface Deployment and Distribution Command officials who manage the household goods movement system say such claims should be filed directly with moving companies.

Questions? Visit your personal property office on base.

———

Questions? Comments? E-mail staff writer kjowers@militarytimes.com?subject=Question from ArmyTimes.com reader">Karen Jowers at kjowers@militarytimes.com?subject=Consumer%20Watch:%20How%20to%20grant%20power%20of%20attorney">kjowers@militarytimes.com.

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