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Access to your power of attorney documents

It’s important to have access to the originals of your power of attorney documents, because a photocopy sometimes won’t be accepted.

Sometimes an estate planning attorney keeps the originals, and sometimes the client keeps them. Both are good ideas. But either way, make sure you can access them when you need them. If you keep them yourself, put them in a safe place. And if your estate planning attorney keeps them, be sure you leave enough time to obtain them if you’ll need them for a transaction.

This issue came up recently when a women signed a power of attorney. She was deploying overseas with the Air Force, and wanted her husband to be able to manage their affairs back home. Later, the husband refinanced the couple’s mortgage. But when it came time to record the new mortgage with the county, the clerk’s office refused to do so – because he couldn’t find the original notarized power of attorney, and only had a photocopy.

He explained that it would be very difficult to get a new power of attorney document when his wife was serving overseas, but the clerk’s office wouldn’t bend.

He eventually sued the county, claiming that he suffered damages because he couldn’t refinance or sell the property. But a federal appeals court said the county was within its rights, and the couple was out of luck.