**Are You In the Know About Georgia?s New Durable General Power of Attorney Law?**

On July 1, 2017, the Georgia legislature passed the Uniform Power of Attorney Act, which was patterned after the Uniform Power of Attorney Act drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2018. Why is this new law important?

A financial power of attorney (POA), which is synonymously known as a durable power of attorney, protects you or your loved ones in the event you or they become incapacitated or rendered incompetent, or even may be unavailable to carry out important financial decisions or pay bills. It is a legal document that enables a designated ?agent? to act in your place or the place of your loved one.

The new law protects the principal, the person devising the POA, which was not well defined prior to the change in the law. Now, the designated agent will be held to a higher standard of conduct and will be held liable for damages if they misuse or abuse a power of attorney. Furthermore, any interested party may request the courts to examine and review a questionable power of attorney. Third parties, such as banks, may request additional information from the agent and rely upon such information provided. Equally important is that an agent who furnishes documents subject to a third party request may also force the third party to accept the power of attorney. The third party may be held liable for damages as well.

Other features also include: the POA is immediately effective upon execution; the POA is ?durable? in nature, meaning that it does not end if the principal gets incapacitated; an agent may not receive compensation, but may receive reimbursement of reasonable expenses; automatic dissolution of the POA when the agent?s marriage to the principal has ended; co-agents have the ability to exercise authority independently; and an agent that is not related by blood or through marriage to the principal or an individual that owes an obligation to the agent may not have an interest in the principal?s property.

Please note that in Georgia, an Advance Directive for Healthcare is a separate legal document that combines the Living Will and the Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare. Please contact our firm to obtain a copy of the Advance Directive for Healthcare, or if you have any questions related to making medical decisions regarding your loves, or whom you may designate or assign to make medical decisions on your behalf.

To obtain our new Durable General Power of Power of Attorney form based on the statutory form that was created due to the new law, please contact our firm. Since it is more detailed, please call us to inquire whether you need to update your pre-July 1, 2017 POA.

**Considerations Before Signing or Entering Into An Agreement**

Businesses and individuals are entering into agreements, contracts, or financial relationships on a daily basis. Before signing your rights away, are you or your colleagues reviewing the fine print, or even know what the agreement requires you to do or not do?

Also there are times when both parties have a verbal understanding and enter into a service agreement without putting anything in writing. After monies have been paid and the banks have cleared the checks, what happens when the party agreeing to perform the work, suddenly disappears and gives the runaround that they will eventually perform the work previously agreed upon?

We have described two issues that our clients frequently encounter, whether it is from the consumer side or as a business owner. As always, we encourage you to put all agreements in writing and to thoroughly review each paragraph before signing in order to protect yourself from liability or to enforce the agreement in a court of law.

In a perfect world, what we review or draft makes sense, but often times we may hastily sign legally binding agreements or pay someone based on a handshake without considering the long term impacts of entering into such a financial relationship. Please consider calling our firm before entering into an agreement, or if you want a simple review of the contract. Some of our clients have even called while they are in the middle of negotiations before the final agreement has been drafted for advice on what terms should be included. Your proactivity may help you in the long run and avoid costly and time-consuming headaches. Our seasoned attorneys are trained to review and spot terms that look suspicious or are one-sided. We can also offer advice on which terms are important and what to avoid putting into the final agreement.

**SUCCESS STORIES**

Client contacted our office for assistance in canceling a contract for a timeshare property in Virginia. Client and his wife were timeshare members of a club in Virginia. Unfortunately, Client?s wife passed away this year. Within three days of her passing, Client received a phone call from the resort advising him of an upcoming owners? meeting. Client told the agent that his wife had just passed and also that he was not interested in attending the meeting, nor upgrading or using the vacation package. Client was told that he was required to attend the meeting in order to change the timeshare ownership over to just him. Once Client got to the meeting, he was a victim of a bait and switch where an associate advised him that the funds he had been paying for years for upgrades were not applied correctly and the only way to fix it was to reinvest. We wrote a letter to the resort demanding a refund, and also demanding that the resort refrain from engaging in deceptive sales techniques and the dissemination of misleading marketing materials. In response to our letter, the resort agreed to refund the cost of the timeshare. Client executed a refund and release agreement. Recovery for client, $23,602.00.

Client contacted our office for assistance after signing a contract and paying a fee to a financial company for additional lines of credit. The contract was guaranteed to provide client with financial and credit cards with a minimum credit line of $70,000.00 at 0% interest for 18 months. According to Client, credit cards were issued with a total credit line in the amount of $102,000. The contract fee was charged to one of the credit cards. The next day, Client was unable to use the credit cards and informed by the bank that the two credit cards had been withdrawn as the amount of unsecured credit had been erroneously issued by the bank. We wrote a letter to the financial company advising that it was in violation of the contracted terms, and demanded a refund of the contract fees. In response to our letter, the financial company agreed to refund one-half of the contract fees and Client accepted the offer. Recovery for client, $4,500.00.

Client contacted our office for assistance in obtaining a refund of money she paid for a kit testing her husband for mold exposure. Client paid a laboratory for a basic panel test kit. Husband submitted samples, but they later found out that the test kit did not include the containers necessary for submitting all of the specimens required for the FID2 Test. After nearly a year, and despite Client?s multiple attempts to contact the laboratory, Client received neither the test results nor the additional specimen kits for sample testing. We wrote a letter demanding an immediate refund of the payment for the test, or in the alternative, to provide Client with the results for the test and containers required to submit specimens for the test she have already paid for. In response to our letter, the laboratory sent a refund for the cost of the test. Recovery for Client, $1,149.00.