Ask the County Law Librarian- Divorce Nullifies Power of Attorney Between Spouses
Hello I’m e-mailing with a question about the law of Power Of Attorney. My parents have been divorced now since "2006” in "2005" my Dad gave my Mom Power Of Attorney over his personal affairs. My parents have been separated since "1989" but have always maintained a good relationship. Lately my Dad has been showing sing of early Alzheimer’s and we have concerns because it seems that due to their divorce the Power Of Attorney is no longer valid! Is this a fact or is there something we can do to ensure that My Mom remains a vital part of My Dads affairs! I’m not sure and we need to know because there are properties involved and health care issues. So if u could help us out with some helpful info it would be nice. Thanks!!
I’m sorry to hear about your dad’s ailing health. It is true that in California, a divorce will nullify a power of attorney, if it was created between spouses before the divorce. The California Probate Code states that if after executing a power of attorney the principal’s (your dad) marriage to the attorney-in-fact (your mom) is dissolved or annulled, the principal’s designation of the former spouse as an attorney-in-fact is revoked. The California Probate Code also states that the power-of-attorney can be revived by the principal’s remarriage to the attorney-in-fact.
If remarriage is not a possibility, and if your dad has the legal capacity to make the decision, he can execute another Power of Attorney listing your mom as the agent or attorney-in-fact. If your dad is able to understand and is willing to sign a Power of Attorney or Advanced Health Care Directive, these may be all that is needed to re-instate your mom’s authority. These forms are available at the law library’s website at http://www.saclaw.org/pages/forms-page.aspx .
However, since your dad is suffering from early Alzheimer’s, he may not be competent enough to do this. The law library has several books you can look at to help determine legal capacity, including: Capacity and Undue Influence: Assessing, Challenging, and Defending: Here’s How and When To Do It published by CEB.
If your dad does not have the legal capacity to execute another Power of Attorney, then a Conservatorship may be an alternative for your family. A conservatorship is a legal arrangement in which a responsible adult oversees the personal care or financial matters of another adult considered to be incapable of managing alone. The person who cannot care for him or herself is called the conservatee. The person or organization the judge chooses to do this is known as the conservator. A conservator can be a family member, friend or professional person. California law on conservatorships can be found in the Probate Code beginning at section 1800.
A California conservatorship must be formally established through a court proceeding. The proposed conservator must first file a Petition for Conservatorship to initiate the court proceeding. Once the petition has been filed, the clerk will set the matter for hearing. The hearing will generally be set 45 days from the date of filing. Sacramento County may have some local forms requirements.
The law library has created Legal Resource Guides on Power of Attorney and Conservatorships that will help you get started in your research. These Legal Resource Guides are available from the law library’s website at http://www.saclaw.org/pages/legal-research-guides.aspx .The law library also has other materials available, including sample forms and general information that cover both of these topics.
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