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Gagnon V. Coombs Essay

930 words - 4 pages

Introduction
The case of Francis W. Gagnon v. Joan G. Coombs was tried in the Appeals Court of Massachusetts in 1995. Francis Gagnon and his wife, an elderly couple, owned a farm in Shelburne Massachusetts and land in Hillsborough, New Hampshire. They had two children, Joan Coombs and Frank Gagnon. Joan suggested that her parents sign powers of attorney appointing her as their agent. Frank was upset when he found out about the POA and convinced his father to revoke the power. Francis revoked but did not tell Joan. Mrs. Gagnon dies two months later and Mr. Gagnon signed a purchase and sale agreement for the Shelburne farm. He gave the property in Hillsborough to Frank. When Mr. ...view middle of the document...

The primary innovation of the Act aimed at preventing abuse is the requirement that the power of attorney contain express language to specifically authorize certain actions that have significant potential for dissipating the principal’s property or altering his estate plan. The Act requires an express grant of authority in order for an agent to create, amend, revoke, or terminate an inter vivos trust; make a gift; create or change rights of survivorship, create or change a beneficiary designation; waive the principal’s right to be a beneficiary of a joint or survivor annuity; exercise fiduciary powers that the principal has the authority to delegate; and disclaim or refuse an interest in property, including a power of appointment. The exercise of authority is subject to constraint by the agent’s fiduciary duties. While it is possible under the Act of an agent to legitimately exercise authority for the primary benefit of the agent, there must be both the authority to engage in the particular transaction and a clear indication of the principal’s expectation that the agent is to exercise the authority for the agent’s benefit (Whitton, 2007).
The Act also requires all agents to act in good faith, within the scope of authority granted, and according to the principal’s expectations if known or in the principal’s best interest if unknown. Unless otherwise provided in a power of attorney, an agent must act loyally for the principal’s benefit, avoid creating a conflict of interest that impairs the ability to act impartially in the principal’s best interest, and attempt to preserve the principals’ estate plan to the extent the plan is known to the agent and preservation is consistent with the principal’s best...

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