Does a spouse automatically have Power of Attorney?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My husband, Ken, is 75 years old and has Parkinson's disease, is diabetic, and suffers from neuropathy. We have a joint account so that is OK. Hedoesn't have any children. I am wondering, since I am his wife, does that automatically give me his power of attorney?

Expert Answer

Steve Weisman hosts the nationally syndicated radio show A Touch of Grey, heard on more than 50 stations, including WABC in New York City and KRLA in Los Angeles. He is a practicing lawyer specializing in estate planning and is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. He's a public speaker and commentator who has appeared on many radio and television shows throughout the country, and he's the legal editor of Talkers magazine, the preeminent trade publication of talk radio. His latest book is The Truth About Avoiding Scams.

Although as a joint owner of a bank account, you have full access to that account, you do not automatically have a power of attorney for your husband merely because you are married. A Durable Power of Attorney is not a one-size-fits-all document and it should be tailored to your husband's needs and desires. It is a very important document that would permit you to act on his behalf in as broad or as limited a fashion as your husband would want. I urge you to have him contact his lawyer in regard to making sure that he gets both a Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Advance Directive.